10 February 2012 - Marine debris, which includes
plastics and other types of debris from domestic or international
sources, is a growing concern related to ocean ecosystem
health and conservation of marine wildlife. Approximately
70 per cent of it lies on the seabed, with the remaining
parts suspended in the water column or floating on the surface.
Assessing the extent of the problem is
difficult, as the vast variety of sources and ways of entry
of debris into the marine environment does not allow quantifying
the overall amount. In addition, ocean circulation very
effectively disperses material, which may be affecting habitats
thousands of kilometres from its origin. For many marine
migratory species, however, there is abundant evidence that
marine debris is now a major conservation concern. Ranging
from sharks, turtles, dolphins or seabirds entangled in
lost or abandoned fishing gear to albatrosses mistakenly
feeding their chicks with garbage instead of fish, to a
deterioration of coastal habitats to the point of unsuitability,
marine debris is one more factor threatening marine species.
Acknowledging these concerns, Resolution
10.4 on Marine Debris, originally proposed by the Government
of Australia, highlights the negative impacts of marine
debris on migratory species, caused by ingestion, entanglement
and habitat degradation. Recommended action by the Parties
starts with identifying hotspots where marine debris accumulates
and originates in each country and region, and collaborating
to assess the impacts. They are also encouraged to develop
and implement their own national plans of action to address
this problem, and to report available information on the
amounts, impacts and sources of marine debris within their
waters in their national reports.
In parallel and in order to start the Convention’s
work on this issue, the Scientific Council will identify
knowledge gaps and best practice waste management strategies
on ships and determine the need for the improvement or development
of codes of conduct. The Secretariat will assist with collating
information on the subject, also from other agreements.
The Council will also look at ongoing public awareness campaigns
and assess their effectiveness, again to identify gaps and
areas for improvement.
Resolution 10.4 is available here.
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