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UN Global Initiative Tackles Marine Litter to Clean World's Oceans

UN effort to reduce ocean plastic waste
(file photo)

Published Apr 12, 2021 8:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

A new program is being launched under the auspices of the United Nations to tackle marine litter and clean up the world's oceans. The GloLitter Partnerships Project is being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the International Maritime Organization and 30 countries and initial funding from the Government of Norway through the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

GloLitter will assist developing countries in identifying opportunities to prevent and reduce marine litter, including plastic litter, from the maritime and fisheries sectors. The project aims to decrease the use of plastics in these industries and identify opportunities to recycle plastics, to better protect our fragile marine environment. The program is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 that is committed to prevent and reduce marine pollution and conserve and use the oceans sustainably.

"Plastic litter has a devastating impact on marine life and human health," said Manuel Barange, FAO's Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture. "This initiative is an important step in tackling the issue and will help protect the ocean ecosystem as well as the livelihoods of those who depend on it."

The GloLitter project will help the sector to apply best practices for the prevention and reduction of marine plastic litter, including lost or discarded fishing gear, in a bid to safeguard coastal and global marine resources. Among the efforts, it will look at the availability and adequacy of port reception facilities as well as enhancing awareness within the shipping and fisheries sectors, including seafarers and fishers. 

Jose Matheickal, Head of the IMO's Department for Partnerships and Projects, welcomed the initiative. "Marine litter is a scourge on the oceans and the planet. I am delighted that we have more than 30 countries committed to this initiative and working with IMO and FAO to address this issue."

The GloLitter Project will equip partner countries with tools such as guidance documents, training materials, and strategies to help enforce existing regulations. For example, it will encourage fishing gear to be marked so it can be traced back to its owner if discarded or lost at sea.

The IMO will also encourage partners to consider the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex V regulations on the prevention of pollution, which prohibits the discharge of plastics (including fishing gear) from ships into the sea. Another treaty, the IMO London Convention/London Protocol, regulates the dumping of wastes from ships, permitting only certain types of non-harmful waste to be dumped.

The availability and adequacy of port reception facilities and their connectivity to national waste management systems will also be a focus of the project and participating countries will be assisted in the development of port waste management plans. GloLitter also includes pilot initiatives with women-led organizations active in fisheries to reduce the use of plastic in fisheries, fish processing, and marketing, and to collect plastic for recycling

Another key aspect of GloLitter will be the establishment of public-private partnerships to spur the development of cost-effective management solutions for tackling marine plastic litter, including ways to decrease the use of plastics in these industries as well as opportunities for recycling plastic products or waste.

Ten countries have been confirmed as Lead Partnering Countries, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Vanuatu. Another 20 countries, (Argentina, Cabo Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, the Gambia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, and Viet Nam) have been selected as Partnering Countries (PCs) of the GloLitter Project.