Potential Gaps in Marine Litter Management

As previously described, a basic regulatory and management framework addressing marine litter is in place and a number of regions and countries have taken management measures to tackle the issues. A few cases indicate that some of the management measures have generated desirable results, such as South Korea's fishing gear buyback programme, Taiwan's plastic restriction policy and compulsory garbage sorting policy, US Fish for Energy, OSPAR Fishing for Litter, EU PRF Directive, HELCOM Baltic Strategy (see previous sections). Despite this, marine litter continues to increase worldwide: on shorelines, in estuaries and mangroves, in oceanic gyres, and on seafloors, signalling that marine litter remains an abiding problem, particularly with respect to microplastics (Barnes et al. 2009; UNEP 2011; Lima et al. 2014; Mohamed Nor and Obbard 2014; Pham et al. 2014; Lusher 2015). There are complex reasons for this and, it is possible to identify a number of gaps in the current framework that prevent the effective control of marine litter.

• Limits of existing instruments in addressing plastic marine litter

Gold et al. (2013) identified a number of limitations in existing international instruments in addressing marine litter, including their insufficient scope with respect to the main sources of plastic pollution, exemptions and lack of enforcement standards. For instance, UNCLOS acknowledges the existence of landbased sources but simply requests that countries address the problem through domestic means.44 MARPOL Annex V exempts accidental loss of disposal of plastic resulting from damage to the ship or its equipment,45 as well as ships

<400 GT, a category to which most of the fishing vessels belong, from recoding garbage discharge operations in Garbage Record Books (GRBs).46 However, GRBs are of utmost importance to ensure compliance with discharge regulations (HELCOM 2012).

The lack of enforcement standards can be found in the terms used in the legal instruments. UNCLOS, for instance, requires only that nations “shall endeavor” to use the “best practical means” to reduce marine pollution “in accordance” with their capabilities. Similarly, the Helsinki Convention requires contracting parties to take “all appropriate” measures to prevent and eliminate pollution. This leaves room for interpretation for countries with differing legal systems, environmental circumstances and capacities (Gold et al. 2013).

• Deficiencies in the legislation and a lack of implementation and enforcement of regulations and management measures The implementation and enforcement of regulations and management measures at national levels is a key component to combat marine litter. However, a number of cases below show that international initiatives have not yet been transposed into national management schemes; or where they have there is a lack of enforcement, insufficient implementation, insufficient penalties to deter violators, or a lack of clarity in legislation leaving room for interpretation. These all represent major obstacles to the effective control of marine litter. For instance, the UNEP (2009) pointed out that at the national level, only the Wider Caribbean and Northwest Pacific regions have countries with specific national legislation addressing marine litter. The revised MARPOL Annex V has not yet been transposed into national law in countries such as Germany (UBA 2013) and thus there is no legal footing to implement this revised Annex V at the national level. The IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) shows that there are numerous reported cases of alleged inadequacy of reception facilities.47 In the US, as of 1995, <10 % of cases put to trial under MARPOL Annex V have resulted in penalties48 and each of the penalized cases was fined an average of€4,560, an amount far too low to serve as a deterrent (Gold et al. 2013). In Taiwan, no penalties exist for the violation of the Annex V. The EU PRF Directive is vague at defining the fee/cost recovery system. The transposition of the directive into national legislation leaves room for different solutions on how to introduce incentives for waste delivery at ports. The use of different waste-fee systems by EU ports creates confusion among ship owners and operators (EMSA 2012; Øhlenschlæger et al. 2013).

• Poor cooperation and insufficient participation of states in international/regional initiatives Despite the fact that numerous international and regional initiatives already exist and provide a platform for cooperation and coordination of marine debris issues, a few cases indicate that cooperative action on marine litter has lagged behind, or the participation of states in these initiatives was insufficient. This would leave a loophole in the global/regional efforts, given the fact that marine debris is a transboundary issue. For example, there are no legal instruments in place dedicated to the management of marine litter as yet in the Black Sea, even though the Bucharest Convention49 contains several articles pertaining to marine debris (Interwies et al. 2013). Some regional seas do not even participate in the UNEP Global Initiative, such as west central and southern Africa, northeast Pacific, Pacific and the ROPME50 sea area (UNEP 2009). Countries bordering these regional seas might lack appropriate waste-management schemes because of economic constraints, although a number of African countries have recently banned the use of plastic bags.

• Insufficient data on marine litter

Despite the existing schemes against marine litter, our current knowledge of the quantities and the degradation of litter in the marine environment and its potential physical and chemical impacts on marine life are scarce (Galgani et al. 2013). Our knowledge gaps in terms of the biological consequences of microplastics exposure, economic and social impacts of marine debris have been mentioned (see other chapters). These gaps hinder the ability to prioritize mitigation efforts and to assess the effectiveness of implementation measures (The Scottish Government 2012). Specific data gaps were identified in a number of studies. For instance, very little data exist on quantities, trends, sources and sinks of marine litter in the west Indian Ocean region and very little is known about the extent and nature of the problem in the east Asian Seas region (GESAMP 2010). In European seas, data gaps were identified, including amounts and composition, transport, origin and impacts of marine litter on the seafloor, in the water column and rivers (Interwies et al. 2013). In addition, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities and their contribution to litter generation, quantities and impacts of derelict fishing gear and micro-particles were referred to. Further data are needed in relation to large-scale and long-term monitoring across countries and environments, smaller-scale dynamics that affect plastic movement and accumulation, and trophic transfer dynamics of persistent organic pollutants via plastics through the marine food web (USEPA 2011).

 
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