The Interreg Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community project, from which MedCities is partner leading the communication component, hosted the online workshop: «Mediterranean Pollution, Biodiversity and Health». MedCities also gave support together with UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Center Plan Bleu. Over 70 partners and experts from around the globe gathered for this event to find the best solutions to combat marine litter impacts across the Mediterranean.

This event was held during the EU Green Week 2021, which placed «Zero Pollution for Healthier People and Planet» under the spotlight.  On 4  June, key players in the fight against marine pollution across the Mediterranean region, came together to discuss how we can enhance and strengthen our existing efforts to reduce marine litter, and to mitigate its impacts on our marine biodiversity and health. Scientists, decision-makers, NGOs, civil society and other interested stakeholder groups all shared their knowledge and perspectives to help refine our key recommendations and to showcase the many initiatives ongoing in the region.

It was an action-packed day with a number of inspiring presentations and plenary discussions from expert facilitators and speakers. The workshop, mainstreamed via Facebook, centred around three main focus areas:

  • Session 1- What do we know about European and Mediterranean marine litter impacts on biodiversity and health?
  • Session 2: Policy efforts to tackle marine litter at different scales.
  • Session 3: Solutions to reduce marine litter pollution and impacts on biodiversity and our health. 

Following the informative sessions and interactive discussions, participants were equipped with a better understanding of the current knowledge, policies, gaps and solutions to respond to the call for actions. An opportunity was also provided to show their commitments to a cleaner and healthier Mediterranean by signing the ecosystem-based approach declaration.

The first session showed us the many different ways that marine organisms can be impacted by litter, and the current efforts to monitor and assess marine litter and its impacts across the region. Dania Abdul Malak (ETC-UMA Director) introduced us to an online knowledge-based tool, MedBioLitter, that compiles Mediterranean marine litter impact on biodiversity related studies so they can be used to further our research and ensure evidence-based decision making.

Attendees could learned that marine pollution does not just affect biodiversity and pollution but there are a number of direct and indirect ways it can also affect our health and well-being, and therefore is an issue that we should all be extremely concerned about. Despite the significant advancement in our knowledge over the past decade, it is clear that there remains a lot more for us to learn about marine litter and its impacts. Scientists need to work together so that they can harmonise knowledge and solutions that can be used to mitigate impacts of Marine Litter in the Mediterranean.

In session two participants heard about the many initiatives and policies to fight marine litter at a project, national and regional scale, and the important need to drive forward a more circular economy. The experts showed us that we need a new «global» treaty that will deal with plastics and mobilize actions at all levels (producers, consumers and decision-makers) and across the entire plastic loop – from extraction to production, to the use and post-use of plastic.  

The last session of the day showcased a number of ongoing initiatives and practical solutions that are being, and can be, taken to help combat marine litter, and how stakeholders and civil society can be involved in these initiatives. Participants also heard how important it is to make sure knowledge and tools are transferred and capacity built at the local level. In that sense, MedCities’ Secretary General, Mr. Josep Canals Molina participated to talk about the active role that local governments can have to mitigate the marine litter problem in all shores from the Mediterranean. Also, he explained some specific actions that are being taken in MedCities members, as for instance, the A’SIMA Tunis project or the work done in solid waste management in union of municipalities as Al-Fayhaa or Dannieh, both in Lebanon.

In the call for actions, participants reviewed the 9 key recommendations from 2018. The majority thought that tackling marine litter at the production and consumption level was one of the most important recommendations to combat marine litter. As a result of this workshop and the prioritisation exercise, and with input from experts and participants, our revised recommendations towards combatting marine litter in the Mediterranean are:

1.     Reduce and eliminate unsustainable production and consumption to decrease marine litter

2.     Increase awareness of marine litter and its impacts, across the wider society, and ensure the involvement of youth, civil society and local partners in marine litter monitoring and mitigation

3.     Increase cross-border cooperation (especially with non-EU countries) to share knowledge and harmonise marine litter mitigation actions and policies

4.     Increase cross sectoral collaboration for tacking marine litter impacts on biodiversity and human health, and for the inclusion of Ecosystem-Based Management principles in other sectoral policies

5.     Address and reduce sea-based sources of marine litter

6.     Improve marine litter data and information across the entire Mediterranean region

7.    Support the transfer of knowledge and management tools between local managers and stakeholders for managing, monitoring and mitigating marine litter and its impacts

8.   Refine, improve and harmonise marine litter-related assessment protocols, and support the development of Mediterranean-wide monitoring protocols

9.    Ensure the sustainability of achievements through links with other regional marine litter databases, and the upkeep of relevant regional knowledge databases

Although it is clear that we have a long and complex road ahead of us towards zero pollution, the workshop highlighted that we are a concerned and dedicated Mediterranean community, made up of all sorts of different stakeholder groups, and it doesn’t matter to which group we belong, we are all part of the problem and therefore we all need to be part of the solution!

You can read more details and watch the videos from the session in the whole news on Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection website.

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