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Marine litter activities by Seas at Risk Members

provided by Chris Carroll of Seas at Risk. This list is not exhaustive but provides the best information known at this time

Seas At Risk member activities on marine litter


In 2010 the North Sea Foundation will work on Marine Litter in several areas:
- Monitoring 4 Dutch beaches on litter in the OSPAR Beach Litter Monitoring program
- Coastwatch project (kids cleaning the beach and learning about the sea)

- Campaign on marine litter to the Dutch public, Beach Clean ups/show litter found in the sea/on beach to public
- Take samples in the North Sea and channels/rivers into the North Sea on micro plastics
- Work together with coastal communities to reduce waste from beach tourism


Surfrider organises a yearly ‘Ocean Initiative’ (beaches and rivers clean-up). IO is a great eco-citizen weekend of global scale, dealing with the problem of macro-waste and dedicated to the protection of our coast, our lakes and our rivers. Ocean Initiatives will take place on the 18, 19, 20 and 21 Mars 2010.

Ocean Initiatives in 2009 :

  • Cleanup organized over 20 countries
  • 20 000 participants
  • 500 clean-up
  • 2150 km of shoreline cleaned

More than 45 pilot projects were organized during the Ocean Initiatives. A pilot project is a beach, lake or river clean up accompanied by a complementary educational action on the Ocean Initiatives theme.


NO LONGER RUNNING. At LPN, we belong to a project called "Project Mar" (Project Sea), which is the result of a consortium of entities leadened by a diving school with the aim of organizing several underwater clean-up actions. During the past year, we organized 4 clean-up actions around the country with good media coverage and weighed the litter we took out. But the idea is to make diving schools around the country join the project and collect litter every time they dive, and then weigh and characterize that litter (e.g. type of litter, elements indicating origin). That data would be inserted in an on line database, and in this way we could have a log of the litter around the country.

That is the idea, although we know it is quite ambitious. But at least the project has gotten quite a lot of visibility in 2009, we have the Navy as partners and the interest of a journalist from a national TV station to follow the project. So we can keep you posted on that.


We are aiming to collate records of injuries or fatalities to marine wildlife linked to litter entanglement or ingestion as part of a campaign to push for action on marine litter. Gathering as many records as possible is the only way we will convince government and decision makers that marine litter is a serious problem.

MCS is particularly concerned with the issue of marine and beach litter, much of which comes from land-based sources and which can have significant impacts on coastal and sea users as well as marine wildlife. MCS would therefore strongly encourage and support schemes that lead to a reduction in aquatic litter.

Monitoring Marine Litter

MCS already co-ordinate a range of projects that encourage public participation in marine conservation, including Adopt-a-Beach and Beachwatch, the biggest beach clean and litter survey projects in Europe. MCS has been collecting data on marine litter through Beachwatch since 1993 and Adopt-a-Beach since 1999 and has thus amassed a large bank of data detailing both type and source of litter to be found in the UK. The protocols and methodology used are compatible with other systems on a European and worldwide basis.

Beachwatch provides data for the International Coastal Cleanup, co-ordinated by the Ocean Conservancy (formerly the Center for Marine Conservation) in the USA, which involves over 70 countries worldwide in litter surveys and beach cleans over the same weekend in September, providing information on the global extent of marine litter. Adopt-a-Beach data is fed into the OSPAR project on Marine Litter. Indeed, the methodology used by OSPAR is based on the Adopt-a-Beach surveys.

There are many different types of litter that, accidentally or intentionally, enter our seas and are deposited on our beaches. These can be divided into categories according to their likely source, product type, or material. In the MCS surveys, litter items are categorised according to their material type (e.g. plastic, wood) for ease of recording. The litter surveyed is then categorised by source (e.g. fishing, shipping, sewage related debris).

The data is analysed by MCS to identify the quantities, types and sources of litter affecting the UK coastline and the impacts of litter on marine life, human health and local economies, providing evidence that can be used to target specific polluters and pollutants at local, national and international levels.

The results of the surveys carried out during Beachwatch are published every Spring and are the only annual statistics on beach litter produced in the UK. The government’s ‘Charting Progress’ report acknowledged that Beachwatch “provides the only long-term dataset” for beach litter in the UK. In 2005, Defra commissioned MCS to produce a report on ‘Solutions to Litter in the Aquatic Environment’ and a number of the recommendations in this report have been taken forward.

Each year, thousands of volunteers demonstrate their concern for the state of the marine environment and the problems caused by marine litter by participating in MCS’s Adopt-a Beach project and the annual Beachwatch litter survey and clean-up. In Beachwatch 2008, a total of 374 beaches, covering over 170 km of coastline in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands were cleaned and surveyed by over 5,000 volunteers, indicating that litter is still an issue of great public concern.

Most volunteers take part in these projects because they believe that beaches should be clean, safe and litter-free environments. According to MCS Beachwatch litter surveys, UK beach litter levels have increased over the past 16 years. In fact, average beach litter levels following Beachwatch 2008 were 90% above 1994 levels. Plastic litter levels have increased by 146% since 1994.

Public participation in the MCS projects and other community initiatives plays an important role in increasing general understanding of the litter issue. Such schemes enable people to become actively involved in practical measures to reduce marine litter and raise awareness of the need to prevent coastal pollution.


Through the Adopt-a-Beach project, local people volunteer to undertake quarterly beach cleans and litter surveys of their chosen beach. The volunteers are sent a detailed pack with instructions on how to carry out the surveys, and marine litter ID sheets are provided for uncommon items. Organisers carry out the survey 1 to 2 hours after high tide, along a stretch of beach a minimum 100m in length (or less if the total beach length was less than 100m).

Litter is recorded between the current high water mark (along the strandline) and the upper edge of the usable part of the beach (e.g. up to the edge of the sand dunes, sea wall or promenade). Each piece of litter on the measured area of beach is removed and recorded on prepared Data Sheets which categorises the items according to material type, e.g. plastics, metal, sanitary. Each material type is then broken down into specific objects, e.g. bottle, crisp packet, cotton bud stick. Details of any items that are identifiably foreign or traceable to particular countries or companies are also recorded.

Observations of dead, entangled or stranded animals are noted and the relevant authorities notified. Volunteers followed strict guidelines for ensuring the accuracy of data recording. The total number of litter items in each material category, total number of bags, weight of litter, length and width of beach surveyed and the number of volunteers are recorded. These records are then returned to MCS, along with the Data Sheets, for collation and analysis of the data.

There are currently over 400 beaches registered for Adopt-a-Beach. The organisers of the surveys are sent feedback forms which contain a breakdown of the litter found during their survey into materials and main litter sources. The volunteers can then use this information to tackle local beach litter issues. MCS encourages communities to work together to look after their coastline. MCS also run workshops to train volunteers how to carry out the surveys.

As well as traditional beach clean-ups, MCS works alongside Project AWARE and PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) dive centres to organise underwater beach cleans. These underwater clean-ups are invaluable as they remove plastic, netting, cans, old buoys and general rubbish that has already made it into the marine ecosystem.


Wadden Foundation about marine litter

  1. Beach clean ups

The Wadden Foundation organizes beach clean ups in the Wad area. Last year (2009) 140 participants of the Waddenworkweekend collected 20 kubic marine litter on the Boschplaat, the east point of Terschelling. Before the weekend started a lecture was given on the Plastic Soup to put the beach clean up in a bigger picture. For this initiative the Wadden Foundation cooperation with the municipality of Terschelling , the national Forest Commission and the Directorate General of Public Works and Water Management.

  1. Awareness of the consumers

From 2004 until 2007 the Wadden Foundation participated in a European project with the North Sea countries. Together with North Sea Foundation they developed the North Sea Logbook which was internationally distributed amongst seafarers. It contained information on sea life, the marine litter problem and its consequences for animals and humans. Moreover the seafarers were requested to make notes during their trips which varied from the observation of porpoises and dolphins to the amount and types of garbage they came across. All the data were compiled in an inventory which was used to raise awareness.


The annual Mediterranean beach clean-up, as organised by Seas At Risk member Legambiente, will takes place every May.

The event has been running since 1995, when the campaign ‘Clean Up the Med’ was born. In 2009, over 100,000 volunteers took part in over 1,500 locations.

Over 400 organisations spread across almost every country that borders the Mediterranean Sea have been involved in the past as volunteers commit themselves to removing as much litter as possible from both popular seaside places and sensitive marine reserves.