November 2014

Eunomia Reports Inform UN Resolution on Marine Litter


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The United Nations has adopted a Resolution on the “Management of Marine Debris”, based on three reports written by Eunomia in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Resolution was adopted yesterday, during the plenary session of the Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animal (CMS), held in Quito, Ecuador. The COP, attracting over 900 delegates, involved six days of negotiations aiming to set conservation actions for the benefit of the world’s migratory species for the coming years.

The Resolution is based on the following three reports:

Amongst other actions, the Resolution:

  • encourages Parties that have not yet done so to join other relevant Conventions such as MARPOL Annex V and the London Protocol, to join Protocols to Regional Seas Conventions on Pollution from Land Based Sources, and to include the prevention and management of marine debris in relevant national legislation;
  • strongly encourages Parties to address the issue of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), by following the strategies set out under the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; and
  • further encourages Parties to promote measures such as the Clean Shipping Index among shipping operators.

It is recognized by the CMS that while knowledge gaps remain relating to marine litter and its impacts on migratory marine wildlife, immediate action should be taken to prevent litter reaching the marine environment. The Resolution emphasizes that “Preventing waste from reaching the marine environment is the most effective way to address this problem.”

Parties are therefore invited to consider implementing cost-effective measures for the prevention of debris, such as levies on single-use carrier bags, deposit refund systems for beverage containers and obligations for the use of reusable items at events.

The Resolution further recommends that:

“Parties planning to implement regulatory measures or economic instruments in order to reduce the amount of waste entering the marine environment accompany these with behavioural change campaigns aiding their introduction by communicating the rationale for introducing the measure, and therefore increasing the likelihood of support.”

Dr Chiarina Darrah, Consultant at Eunomia and one of the principal authors of the reports said:

“While there are plenty of things that we don’t know for certain about marine litter, such as the total amount, or where it’s all from, the review shows that it affects wildlife and habitats in myriad ways and actions that can be taken should be taken, as soon as possible, to prevent further impacts on ecosystems.”

Project Director Dr Chris Sherrington, Principal Consultant at Eunomia said:

“Ultimately, reducing the amount of litter entering the marine environment is in everyone’s self-interest. However, for individual Parties to the Convention, the attractiveness of actions, such as economic instruments, that address land-based litter in a cost-effective way, is that they can be justified even on a narrower definition of national self-interest.”