Instruments of Marine Litter at International, Regional and National Levels

General Mechanisms of Instruments

As previously mentioned, a large number of instruments at international, regional and national levels have been adopted to tackle marine litter problems. These instruments comprise conventions, agreements, regulations, strategies, action lans, programs and guidelines. They contain specific management measures that are either compulsory or voluntary.

There are two basic types of instruments at the international level, in terms of their connection with regional or national instruments. The first comprises those, which are explicitly transposed into regional or national ones, usually in the form of regional agreements or national legislations. Similar texts can also be found in the instruments at the regional or national level. Examples include international instruments such as Annex V3 of MARPOL 73/78,4 the London Protocol and the Action Plan on tackling the inadequacy of port reception facilities (PRFs). The corresponding regional or national instruments transposed from international ones include: the European Union (EU) PRF Directive, the Annex IV of the Helsinki Convention, the United States (US) Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act, the United Kingdom (UK) Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Sewage and Garbage from Ships) Regulations 2008, and various other national legislations. The second type comprises instruments, which are not explicitly transposed into regional or national schemes. These instruments mostly serve as global guiding instruments encouraging regional bodies or countries to follow the actions proposed therein, or as a platform for the states concerned to engage in coordination and cooperation in marine litter issues. The most prominent examples are perhaps a series of initiatives developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), including the Regional Sea Programme (RSP), Guidelines on survey and monitoring of marine litter, Guidelines on the use of market-based and economic instruments and the Honolulu Strategy.

As for the instruments at the regional or national level that lack a clear link traced back to international instruments, they are devised by their own respective regional bodies or nations to deal with marine litter problems. These instruments usually consist of regional agreements, regional or national programs, legislations, or activities dealing with specific aspects of marine litter problems. Examples include the Barcelona Convention, the Guideline for monitoring marine litter on the beaches in the OSPAR5 Maritime Area, the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the CCAMLR6 Marine Debris Program, the US National Marine Debris Program, numerous coastal cleanup activities, and various national legislations relevant to marine litter.

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