Joint Research Center (JRC). The Joint Research Center ( JRC), attached to the European Commission, has developed new guidelines for monitoring marine debris. This document was first published in 2013. The JRC plays a key role in many stages of the EU policy-making process. The guidelines for monitoring marine debris in European waters establish harmonized methods developed on the basis of research developments and efforts by member states. They aim to improve the comparability of data and assessments.
Marine waste monitoring guidelines and their environmental significance
The health and cleanliness of our seas is a growing concern in Europe and around the world. Ocean currents carry with them a huge amount of garbage that does not stop at national borders. As a result, finding a common approach to monitoring waste is critical to understanding its impact on the marine and coastal environment and deciding where and how to act first. The guidelines prepared include advice on monitoring trash and particles of various sizes on the coast, seabed, floating on the surface and eaten by animals. The guidelines also include how to assess the presence of organisms wrapped or trapped in marine debris, such as abandoned fishing gear.
Marine waste monitoring guidelines – key changes
Over the past 10 years, marine research has produced new knowledge, tools and monitoring methodologies. Updated guidelines for tracking marine debris include recommendations on method variability, data format and accessibility. Their main goal is to reduce differences in collection, classification and reporting procedures between EU countries and to enable environmental impact assessment on a regional and European scale.
The most important changes introduced in the marine waste monitoring guidelines concern:
- Use of harmonized methods for monitoring marine waste, including plastics and microplastics, in the EU and surrounding marine regions (as required by the MSFD and the Commission Decision on Good Environmental Status);
- Improving the efficiency of measuring marine debris and its impact and trends in European seas;
- Help identify priority actions in the fight against marine debris;
- providing detailed monitoring protocols, leading to comparable data on marine debris pollution, available through the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet);
- To provide support for EU policies developed with partners across Europe.
The new detailed guidelines for monitoring marine waste have been developed by a committed community of experts from EU member states, renowned research institutes, diverse organizations, regional marine conventions and active NGOs.
Marine Strategy Framework Directive
The basis for the marine waste monitoring guidelines is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Its goal is to protect and preserve the environment, prevent its degradation or, when feasible, restore marine ecosystems in areas that have been adversely affected by human impact. It is also crucial to prevent and gradually eliminate pollution of the marine environment to exclude its significant impact on: marine biodiversity, marine ecosystems, human health and legitimate uses of the sea. New guidelines for monitoring marine waste support the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Data collected on the basis of the developed guidelines will contribute to the assessment of progress in achieving the objectives of the Framework Directive in the marine strategy, the EU plastics strategy and the pollution elimination action plan. In addition, data collection via EMODnet is essential to increase access. It is worth noting that the new guidelines will also be important for monitoring the progress of other regulations, such as the ban on single-use plastics and the reduction of waste from fishing, the collection of waste from ships, and the prevention of pollution by microplastics.
The updated marine debris monitoring guidelines can also be seen as another EU contribution to the ongoing UN negotiations for a global, legally binding instrument against plastic pollution, which could include provisions for monitoring pollution in various elements of the environment, including coasts and seas.