COP10 Outcome: Marine Debris

© Ocean ConservancyBonn, 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.

To read more about the COP, read the special edition of the CMS Bulletin.

Last updated on 16 June 2014