The Mediterranean countries share a common historical and cultural legacy, often built through maritime links dating back millennia. They are currently working towards a common future with shared scientific, cultural and environmental aspirations. Since 1974, the coordinated actions of the UN Environment/MAP are building on this common basis with significant initiatives dedicated to the environment.
As a recent example, the regional plan of action on marine litter, the first ever coordinated action plan of the United Nations on this topic, was launched in 2013, bringing together all the actors in a harmonized approach. The focus is on addressing pollution, putting in place effective actions, which requires relevant knowledge and research with an important contribution from Mediterranean scientists to this field. Relevant scientific literature on marine litter in general can be found here when a number of scientific articles are dedicated to the Mediterranean Sea.
Global assessments were published recently by UN Environment and by GESAMP. In the Mediterranean, a CIESM report and both a UN Assessment and a Quality Status report have been published recently, synthetizing the available scientific information on the topic. More information is available on inputs from the Mediterranean countries, or more specifically from rivers. Distribution and amounts of both floating and sea floor litter have also been addressed, including trends when scientific literature on beach litter is more sub-regionally based.
Understanding the transport of plastic in the Mediterranean was addressed very recently with basin scale models to identify accumulation areas and patterns of stranding. When some aspects of research are not specific to the Mediterranean Sea, some regional studies also described the degradation processes and persistence of plastic in the deep Mediterranean Sea. Impact of litter through ingestion by marine organisms in the Mediterranean has been reviewed and more specialized literature is available on entanglement and interactions with fishing gear.
Monitoring and trend analysis is an important part of the regional plan with some guidance already available from UNEP/MAP and, for European countries, from MSFD. Protocols for new tools (drones, gliders) have also been described and recommendations on a strategy to monitor impacts through Mediterranean species was published by RAC SPA. Finally, risk assessment studies were described when relevant literature provides support to the establishment of best practices, also Enhancing public awareness and promoting co-responsibility for marine litter.
In terms of marine litter management, the main driver in the Mediterranean Sea, with the most relevant documentation, is UNEP/MAP with its Regional Action Plan and supporting documents and reports.