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Marine Litter, Technical Recommendations for the Implementation of MSFD Requirements, MSFD GES Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter

Authors:
Marine Litter
Technical Recommendations for the
Implementation of MSFD Requirements
EUR 25009 EN - 2011
MSFD GES Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter
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The mission of the JRC-IES is to provide scientific-technical support to the European
Union’s policies for the protection and sustainable development of the European and
global environment.
European Commission
Joint Research Centre
Institute for Environment and Sustainability
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Address: Georg Hanke, JRC IES, Via E. Fermi 2749, I-21027 Ispra (VA), Italy
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JRC 67300
EUR 25009 EN
ISBN 978-92-79-21801-9 (print)
ISBN 978-92-79-21802-6 (PDF)
ISSN1018-5593 (print)
ISSN 1831-9424 (online)
doi: 10.2788/92438
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union
© European Union, 2011
Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged
Printed in Italy
The report cover page image has kindly been provided by Boštjan Mljač, EcoVitae, Slovenia
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Contents
List of Abbreviations ............................................................................................................ 6
1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 8
1.1 Group organisation .............................................................................................................. 9
1.2 Collaboration and communication: Basecamp/Circa .......................................................... 9
1.3 Meetings .............................................................................................................................. 9
2. Toolbox and Roadmap Concepts and Availability of Litter Monitoring Data ...................... 9
2.1 Toolbox concept ................................................................................................................ 10
2.2 Roadmap concept .............................................................................................................. 10
2.3 Availability of data and methods ....................................................................................... 10
3. Beach Litter........................................................................................................................ 11
3.1 Availability of data ............................................................................................................. 11
3.2 Availability of methods ...................................................................................................... 12
3.3 Tool sheet development.................................................................................................... 12
3.3.1 Common best practice methodology ................................................................................ 14
3.4 Future needs and further development ............................................................................ 16
3.4.1 Development needs and options within 2012 .................................................................. 16
3.4.2 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond ................................................. 17
4. Water Column and Surface Floating Litter ........................................................................ 17
4.1 Availability of data ............................................................................................................. 18
4.2 Availability of methods ...................................................................................................... 18
4.3 Tool sheet development.................................................................................................... 18
4.3.1 Visual ship based observation ........................................................................................... 19
4.3.2 Surface observation from air ............................................................................................. 20
4.3.3 Surface net trawls .............................................................................................................. 21
4.4 Future needs and further development ............................................................................ 23
4.4.1 Development needs and options within 2012 .................................................................. 23
4.4.2 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond ................................................. 23
4.4.2.1 Camera based systems ...................................................................................................... 23
4.4.2.2 Modelling approaches ....................................................................................................... 24
4.4.2.3 Combined satellite, aerial imagery and modelling ............................................................ 24
5. Litter on the Sea Floor ....................................................................................................... 24
5.1 Availability of methods ...................................................................................................... 25
5.1.1 Shallow waters .................................................................................................................. 25
5.1.2 Shelves ............................................................................................................................... 26
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5.1.2.1 International Bottom Trawl Surveys IBTS .......................................................................... 28
5.1.2.2 Baltic International Trawl Surveys BITS ............................................................................. 28
5.1.2.3 Beam Trawl Survey BTS ..................................................................................................... 28
5.1.2.4 Mediterranean Trawl Survey MEDITS ............................................................................... 28
5.1.2.5 Black Sea program ............................................................................................................. 29
5.1.2.6 "Fishing for Litter" initiatives ............................................................................................. 29
5.1.3 Deep sea floor ................................................................................................................... 30
5.2 Tool sheet development.................................................................................................... 30
5.3 Future needs and further development ............................................................................ 35
5.3.1 Development needs and options within 2012 .................................................................. 35
5.3.2 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond ................................................. 35
6. Impacts of Litter on Marine Life ........................................................................................ 35
6.1 Availability of data ............................................................................................................. 36
6.2 Availability of methods ...................................................................................................... 36
6.3 Tool sheet development.................................................................................................... 37
6.4 Future needs and further development ............................................................................ 40
6.4.1 Ingested litter .................................................................................................................... 40
6.4.2 Entanglement .................................................................................................................... 42
6.4.3 Development needs and options within 2012 .................................................................. 43
6.4.4 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond ................................................. 43
7. Microlitter.......................................................................................................................... 43
7.1 Availability of data ............................................................................................................. 44
7.2 Availability of methods ...................................................................................................... 47
7.3 Future needs and further development ............................................................................ 51
7.3.1 Development needs and options within 2012 .................................................................. 51
7.3.2 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond ................................................. 51
8. Sources of Marine Litter .................................................................................................... 52
8.1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 52
8.2 Availability of data ............................................................................................................. 54
8.3 Regional specific source information ................................................................................ 54
8.3.1 Mediterranean .................................................................................................................. 54
8.3.2 Southern North Sea ........................................................................................................... 54
8.3.3 Baltic Sea ........................................................................................................................... 55
8.3.4 Black Sea ............................................................................................................................ 56
8.4 Microparticles .................................................................................................................... 56
8.4.1 Sewage related sources ..................................................................................................... 56
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8.4.2 Shipping and offshore installations ................................................................................... 57
8.4.3 Run off from land .............................................................................................................. 57
8.5 Availability of source identification methods .................................................................... 57
9. Good Environmental Status, Objectives and Targets ........................................................ 58
9.1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 58
9.2 Definition of GES ............................................................................................................... 58
9.3 General considerations for achievement of GES ............................................................... 59
9.4 Indicator specific considerations for achievement of GES ................................................ 59
9.5 Setting Environmental Targets .......................................................................................... 60
9.6 Developing Operational Targets ........................................................................................ 61
9.7 Examples of potential targets ........................................................................................... 62
9.8 Temporal and spatial scale of targets ............................................................................... 63
10. Reporting and Data Treatment ......................................................................................... 63
11. Research Needs ................................................................................................................. 64
11.1 Research Strategy in support to MSFD Descriptor 10 ....................................................... 64
11.2 Factors influencing the localisation of litter at sea and on the coast ............................... 65
11.3 The degradation process ................................................................................................... 65
11.4 The ecological impact on marine organisms ..................................................................... 65
11.5 The socio economic impact ............................................................................................... 66
11.6 Novel methods and automated monitoring devices ......................................................... 66
11.7 Rationalisation of monitoring ............................................................................................ 66
11.8 Recommendations for research priorities ........................................................................ 67
12. Conclusions and general roadmap .................................................................................... 68
12.1 Conclusions ........................................................................................................................ 68
12.2 Roadmap 2012 .................................................................................................................. 69
13. References ......................................................................................................................... 70
Annex 1. Terms of Reference for the Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter (TSG ML) .................... 75
Annex 2. Members of the Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter (TSG ML) .................................... 79
Annex 3. Summary tables of marine litter monitoring data in Europe ............................................ 81
Annex 4. Overview of the issue of derelict fishing gear. .................................................................. 89
Annex 5. Sources of litter. ................................................................................................................ 90
Annex 6. Major pathways of plastic bottles into the European marine environment. ................... 91
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List of Abbreviations
BITS Baltic International Trawl Survey
BTS Beam Trawl Survey
CSO Combined sewer overflow
Com Dec(2010/477/EU) Commission Decision on criteria and methodological standards on good
environmental status of marine waters (2010/477/EU)
DCF Data Center Framework
DG ENV Directorate-General for the Environment
DG MARE Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
DIKE (WG) Data, Information and Knowledge Exchange (Working group)
DPSIR Driver, Pressure, State, Impact, Response
EAM Ecosystem Approach Management
EcoQO Ecological Quality Objective (OSPAR)
EMODNET European Marine Observation and Data Network
EPA U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
FAO Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
FT-IR Fourier Transform-Infra Red spectroscopy
GES Good Environmental Status
GESAMP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental
Protection
HELCOM Helsinki Commission Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission
IBTS International Bottom Trawl Survey
ICC International Coastal Cleanup
ICES International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (CIEM)
ICGML Inter-sessional Correspondence Group - Marine Litter (OSPAR)
IFREMER Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer
IOC Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
IUU fishing Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
JRC - IES European Commission Joint Research Centre - Institute for Environment and
Sustainability
MEDITS Mediterranean Trawl Survey
MEDPOL Programme for the Assessment and Control of Marine Pollution in the
Mediterranean region
MS EU Member States
MSFD Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC)
NGO Non-Governmental Organisation
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East
Atlantic
QA/QC Quality assurance/Quality control
STFEFC Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries
TSG ML Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter under the Marine Strategy Framework
Directive
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
WG GES Working Group on GES in relation to the MSFD
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Disclaimer: This report has been prepared by a group of experts nominated by EU Member States
and Stakeholders. It aims to provide technical advice and options for the implementation of MSFD
Descriptor 10 on Marine Litter. It does not constitute an official opinion of the European
Commission, nor of the participating institutions.
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1. Introduction
As a follow up to the Commission Decision on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental
status (GES) of marine waters (Commission Decision 2010/477/EU), the Marine Directors requested the
Directorate-General for the Environment (DG ENV) in 2010 to establish a technical subgroup under the
Working Group on GES (WG GES) in relation to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56/EC (MSFD)
for further development of Descriptor 10 Marine Litter and Descriptor 11 Noise/Energy. For practical reasons
the work was carried out by two separate groups. This report compiles the recommendations regarding
Descriptor 10, Marine Litter.
The bases for the work of this group are the criteria and indicators listed in the Commission Decision
2010/477/EU under Descriptor 10:
The mandate for the Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter (TSG ML) was drafted by DG ENV, IFREMER and JRC
(European Commission Joint Research Centre), discussed by WG GES and issued by the European Marine
Directors for the year 2011. It contained the following work items:
1. Identify and review existing data and on-going data collection on marine litter;
2. Describe data needs and methods for future assessment of marine litter;
3. Consider standards for recording of marine litter;
4. Develop proposals for the development of impact indicators for each of the regions;
5. Address how to develop objectives (characteristics of GES ), environmental targets and associated indicators
in relation to marine litter;
6. Discuss effectiveness of measures leading to reductions in marine litter, and;
7. Recommend proposals for further research priorities.
For the full mandate of the group, please see Annex 1.
The group’s first task was to elaborate a strategy which should, in the short term, assist Member States (MS) in
the implementation of the MSFD with regard to Descriptor 10. During the first meeting a strategy based on
three major pillars was proposed and agreed:
The use of a web-based communication tool for effective collaboration between the meetings;
The development of a toolbox containing descriptions (tool sheets) of suitable/applicable monitoring
approaches for the different indicators;
The development of a roadmap indicating the needs for further development by the various
stakeholders in science and policy.
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1.1 Group organisation
In September 2010, MS and stakeholder delegates were invited to appoint experts for the TSG ML. In total, 42
people participated in the group (see Annex 2 for the detailed list of group members). Throughout the process
further interested MS delegates joined the work.
The group was chaired by Francois Galgani (Ifremer, France), co-chaired by Georg Hanke (JRC, Institute for
Environment and Sustainability) and Stefanie Werner (German Environment Agency, UBA, Germany) and
supported by Henna Piha (JRC IES).
The group identified 11 tasks for organisation of discussions and information collection. For each task, a
contact person was nominated and group members were allocated to take lead in preparing the task
deliverables. However, all group members were invited to contribute to each task:
Group organisation
Task 1 Availability of data and methods
Task 2 Beach
Task 3 Water Column and Surface
Task 4 Seafloor
Task 5 Biota
Task 6 Microplastics
Task 7 Objectives and Targets
Task 8 Sources
Task 9 Reporting and Data Treatment
Task 10 Research Needs
Marine Litter Report 2011 (added for the final drafting process).
1.2 Collaboration and communication: Basecamp/Circa
The group reported to WG GES (consisting of representatives of Member States, Regional Sea Conventions and
Stakeholders), the Marine Strategy Coordination Group, and the European Marine Directors. Prior to the final
report, the group produced two intermediate reports and presentations to the meetings of the WG GES, which
are available on CIRCA. As several group members were closely related to the implementation of the
Descriptor 10 provisions in their home countries, the group served as a direct information exchange platform
with many MS.
The work of the group was facilitated by Basecamp® (37signals LLC, Chicago, Illinois, USA), which is a web-
based communication tool. It was provided through JRC and used for communication, drafting documents and
compiling information. JRC provided a privacy policy document for the use of this external tool and regular
back-up of the data.
The deliverables of the group were communicated via the European Commission communication tool CIRCA
under the Marine Strategy interest group in the Environment section:
(http://circa.europa.eu/Members/irc/env/marine/library?l=/implementation_coordinat/technical_subgroup&
vm=detailed&sb=Title).
1.3 Meetings
The group convened three times. The kick-off meeting was held in Copenhagen, on 4 November 2010, back-to-
back with a workshop on Marine Litter organised by ICES. The second meeting was held in Calvi, Corsica,
France from 18-20 April 2011, with focus on discussions about a common understanding of the work items and
drafting of tool sheets. The third meeting was held in Varna, Bulgaria from 12-14 October 2011, concentrating
on final discussions and preparation of the final report.
2. Toolbox and Roadmap Concepts and Availability of Litter Monitoring Data
It is of prime importance that the assessments conducted under the MSFD of trends in occurrence of marine
litter are comparable in order to achieve an equal level of GES across all European Seas. The first objective of
the group was therefore to establish whether sufficiently harmonised monitoring methodologies for assessing
the quantity of litter in the marine environment and in marine organisms were available, and to propose
actions necessary to develop methods where they are currently lacking. While the proposed methodologies
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may be adapted to regional needs, they are the basis for trend assessments; hence it is essential that MS
approach GES through the implementation of the MSFD Descriptor 10 in a harmonised way.
The group focused its work on developing a toolbox with applicable monitoring/quantification methods (tools)
and a roadmap for the further implementation of MSFD Descriptor 10.
2.1 Toolbox concept
The first obligation for MS under the MSFD is the collection and consideration of available and new data for
the initial assessment of the environmental status of their marine waters by mid-2012 (MSFD Art.8). Therefore
information about existing monitoring tools and their properties as well as their limitations is of primary
importance. For the indicators listed in the Commission Decision (2010/477/EU), tool sheets describing the
appropriate methodologies for potential use have been prepared. The group prepared altogether 15 tool
sheets describing the different methodologies for potential use. These tool sheets collect the main information
about the methodologies, such as scope, matrices, and size ranges. They refer to existing guidelines and
detailed descriptions if available and indicate also the maturity of the identified tool, including eventual
shortcomings. These tool sheets are presented in Chapters 3-6 of this report under the relevant monitoring
matrices. They provide a first set of methodologies for application by the MS for starting marine litter data
collection.
2.2 Roadmap concept
While currently existing monitoring tools have been identified as a first priority, there are numerous issues in
the Descriptor 10 implementation which need further attention. The elaboration of a roadmap which shows
the options and needs for further development was therefore the second main task of the group. It has been
tried, where possible, to differentiate between needs on different timescales and to identify the various actors
who could be responsible for their development.
Also the need for further follow-up within the frame of the WG GES, to be carried out by the technical
subgroup was identified. Therefore, in chapter 12 the roadmap for 2012 includes a list of priority tasks for
preparation of a respective mandate. Further important milestones within the MSFD implementation are the
start of monitoring programs in 2014 (Art. 11), the identification of programmes of measures in 2015, the
implementation of those measures in 2016 (Art. 13) and the first revision of the Commission Decision
(2010/477/EU) also expected by 2016. Throughout the whole process coordination of efforts, or at least
mutual information exchange between the MS and stakeholders, should be guaranteed.
2.3 Availability of data and methods
The group reviewed the main available data sources on marine litter in the European Seas. For that purpose a
data sheet was developed which requested extensive (38 categories) information about past and on-going
litter monitoring or survey projects and programs: such as geographical information, data holder information,
dataset size, covered matrices, and methodologies. The intention was to identify the spatial coverage and
timing of marine litter assessments in Europe as well as the responsible persons and institutes. Datasets were
received from approximately 40 organisations covering altogether 56 different monitoring projects. These
ranged from monitoring programs by national authorities developed under the Regional Seas Conventions or
initiatives by NGOs, to outcomes from research projects. This information has been used by the different tasks
for their specific purpose.
Summary tables of current data availability regarding marine litter monitoring and surveys, according to the
various compartments (beach, water column, sea floor, and biota) are presented in Annex 3. An excel sheet
compiling all collected information is available on Circa:
http://circa.europa.eu/Members/irc/env/marine/library?l=/implementation_coordinat/technical_subgroup&v
m=detailed&sb=Title.
The methodological approaches related to the reported datasets as well as other approaches collected from
scientific publications, conference contributions and expertise of the group members have been identified.
The outcome from this analysis was then used in the different tasks for the development of the tool sheets
and the respective roadmap for further development needs.
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3. Beach Litter
Litter on the coastline is one of the most obvious signs of marine litter pollution. Major land-based sources
include tourism, recreation, illegal dumping, waste disposal sites, input from rivers, sewage and storm water
outflows. Major sea-based sources are commercial shipping, fisheries activities, pleasure crafts and off-shore
installations.
Surveys of litter stranded on the coastline are a primary tool for monitoring the load of litter in the marine
environment and have been used world-wide to quantify and describe marine litter pollution. They can be
used to measure the effectiveness of management or mitigation measures, identify the sources and activities
leading to litter pollution and determine threats to marine biota and ecosystems (Cheshire et al., 2009).
For this reason, the amount of litter on the coastline is proposed as a main indicator for marine litter pollution
(10.1.1) characterized as “trends in the amounts of litter washed ashore and/or deposited on coastlines,
including analysis of its composition, spatial distribution and, where possible, source.”
Although the term “Coastline litter” is used in the Commission Decision (2010/477/EU), it is common practice
to use the term “Beach litter”. This is the term that will be used in this report.
3.1 Availability of data
Up-to-date overviews of the results of litter surveys on the coastline are included in the Global Marine
Overview (Cheshire et al., 2009). This includes the results of the reviews by Lozano and Mouat (OSPAR 2009)
for the North-East Atlantic Region, Helsinki Commission (2007) for the Baltic region, BSC (2007) for the Black
Sea region and information for the Mediterranean Sea. For this report an inventory has been prepared of
beach litter data available in the EU area. These data are summarised in Annex 3, Table 1. For the full data set
see:
http://circa.europa.eu/Members/irc/env/marine/library?l=/implementation_coordinat/technical_su
bgroup&vm=detailed&sb=Title.
Fig. 1. Beach in the UK. Photo: Steve Trewhella, Marine Conservation Society.
Fig. 2. Beach on the Swedish west coast. Photo: West Coast Foundation, Sweden.
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3.2 Availability of methods
An initial identification of available methodologies resulted in a limited amount of reports for the EU region:
OSPAR (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) and HELCOM
(Helsinki Commission Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission). There was limited information on
the Black Sea and Mediterranean region and overall there is limited information specifically on hands-on
experience and data analyses. Therefore, the methodologies from UNEP (United Nations Environment
Programme), EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)/Ocean Conservancy and NOAA (National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration) are also considered here.
OSPAR: Guideline for monitoring marine litter on beaches in the OSPAR area
Monitoring of beaches in the OSPAR area has been running for 11 years. The number of participating countries
and beaches varies per year with approximately 50 beaches in 10 countries surveyed in total. The
methodology is practical and well documented although further development and harmonization is needed.
Data has been analysed for several reports; a more advanced method of analysis is still being looked into.
HELCOM: HELCOM RECOMMENDATION 29/2 Guidelines on sampling and reporting of marine litter found on
beach
The method is a less extensive version of the OSPAR method. As far as is known these guidelines have not yet
been used (tested) in the HELCOM area
UNEP: UNEP/ICO Guidelines on Survey and Monitoring of Marine Litter (global).
These guidelines are based on studies of methods worldwide. They provide information on different
monitoring methods varying from scientific to educational. The guidelines are well documented. There is,
however, no record of the practical use of the guidelines.
EPA/Ocean Conservancy: National Marine Debris Monitoring Program (USA)
This programme was conducted for 10 years across the USA with 20 beaches per region in 9 regions. It is well
organized and well documented, including the evaluation of method + analysis.
NOAA: Marine Debris Density Monitoring and Assessments NOAA Marine Debris Division (USA)
A pilot programme from 2009, it is currently undergoing rigorous testing. Well described method, including
micro litter, working with transects.
3.3 Tool sheet development
An analysis of the methods described in 3.2 has been carried using an extensive list of assessment criteria and
many discussions in TSG ML. This has led to the following observations and conclusions:
1. There doesn’t seem to be a need for different individual (regional) methods. Once an EU-wide method is
chosen this can be applied to all countries. The abundance and the types of litter recorded on beaches may
vary between countries; however, this is not a barrier for a harmonized method.
2. One standard method for beach litter surveys should be implemented EU-wide for measuring whether
objectives of the MSFD are met. ICES WKMAL REPORT 2010 (Galgani and Piha, 2010): there is a general
agreement on using the same protocol in every country, which should be an advanced method and allow
the assessment of trends with sufficient accuracy for the purpose of the MSFD.
3. Counting the number of individual items provides the best information for formulation of management
measures at all levels (linking items to sources and uses). It is also the most practical method; other
additional methods can be valuable: e.g. the assessment of the weight of the items found.
4. The detailed assessment of small pieces of micro litter particles (< 5 mm) should be carried out according
to the methods provided in Chapter 7 on Microlitter.
5. Litter items should be registered on a standard survey sheet. A European list of standard litter items
should be produced from which items can be selected for regional surveys. This will enable the comparison
of the results of the surveys at a European level. All litter items should be given a unique identification
code. A hierarchical categorization system should be developed which groups items according to their
type, application and allocates them, where possible, to different sources.
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6. The reporting of barcodes on litter items can provide some additional information on the country of origin
of litter, although considerably more effort is required during the surveys and during analysis. However, as
ships can purchase products in numerous ports of call, barcodes do not necessarily provide information on
the source of litter.
7. Litter should be counted and removed from the beach during each survey. During the first survey this will
provide a one off assessment of the standing stock of litter on that beach. Following surveys will provide
information on litter flux.
8. The frequency of surveys should be adjusted to the needs for trend assessments within the MSFD time
frame. Ideally counts should be carried out after each high tide. However this is in most cases not practical
and very manpower intensive. It is therefore recommended to carry out a minimum frequency of four
surveys per beach/year in order to be able to assess possible seasonal differences in litter pollution. At this
moment there is no knowledge if a higher survey frequency would provide better data.
9. The cleaning of beaches (all year round, seasonally or incidentally) can influence the data. Although it is
better to use beaches where cleaning does not take place, it is not necessary to exclude cleaned beaches
from the assessment programme. It is, however, of utmost importance that the cleaning activities are well
documented so that the information on beach cleaning can be taken into consideration when analysing
the data. It is also very important that the local authorities responsible for cleaning the beaches are
contacted before surveys begin and that there is a close cooperation between surveyors and those
authorities.
10. Criterion for the selection of beaches can vary. Ideally beaches should be selected randomly. However, this
is rarely practical when organising beach surveys. An attempt should be made to cover all aspects of the
litter pollution problem within the region involved. A selection of beaches close to point sources such as
towns or rivers and beaches reflecting diffuse sources such as shipping and fisheries should be chosen. The
number of beaches chosen per country/region etc. should reflect the prevailing coast (length and
geography). Sandy beaches are the easiest to survey, but, pebbly and rocky beaches can be included in the
assessment programme. However, it must be noted that the results from such beaches will not be
comparable to sandy beaches as there will be an underestimation of small items on pebbly beaches and
accumulation processes will be different (especially on rocky coastlines). Here again documentation of the
type of beach, local conditions and factors that can potentially affect the results of the surveys is of utmost
importance.
11. When collecting data it is important to consider the following points as this will improve standardisation
and the quality of data:
Detailed description of the methods to be applied including information on how to collect data.
For example it is important to define clearly how pieces or broken litter items are recorded e.g.
broken bottles or pieces of larger items identifiable as being part of a given item.
Photo guides of all items that are likely to be found on beach aid identification and standardisation
of reporting.
Optimally the same person(s) should monitor a given beach for the duration of the monitoring
programme to ensure that effort remains constant. However, this is seldom possible, and often
volunteers are used for beach litter surveys. Overall, it is important that surveyors are well trained
by people experienced in beach litter monitoring. Quality control measures should be
implemented to check that surveyors are efficient at counting all litter items.
The physical characteristics and local conditions of the survey beach and adjacent region should be
documented before surveys begin. Photographic documentation of the beach and individual litter
items can be helpful. Survey conditions should be recorded during the survey (e.g. wind, snow or
ice, special events, etc.)
12. A 100 m stretch of beach seems to be a practical length for surveys providing sufficient data for analysis. A
minimum of two surveyors are recommended to carry out a given survey. However if the survey site is
very heavily littered more surveyors may be required.
13. A method for analysing the data and producing an index for assessing achievement of set targets should be
developed for the MSFD. OSPAR and The Ocean Conservancy have both applied different analysing
methods. NOAA is currently working on this topic and a German R&D project will be looking at possibilities
using the OSPAR data.
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3.3.1 Common best practice methodology
Looking at the conclusions above and considering the different aspects of beach litter monitoring a proposal is
developed for a tool for beach litter monitoring in the EU region, based on common best practice.
Starting points
Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment.
Harm can be divided into three categories: ecological, economic and social.
MSFD Task Group 10 recommends that the overriding objective would be a measurable and
significant decrease in comparison with the initial baseline in the total amount of marine litter by
2020 (Galgani et al., 2010).
Recommendations for monitoring litter on beaches in the EU region
1. One standard method, at least on a regional seas level but preferably for the EU region.
2. Objective: a measurable and significant decrease in comparison with the initial baseline in the total
amount of marine litter by 2020.
The following tools have been identified:
Beach Litter monitoring (10.1.1_T1)
Beach Meso litter (10.1.1_T2)
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MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Beach litter monitoring
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied: 10.1.1
Tool code: 10.1.1_T1
Tool description: Surveys of litter on beaches are a primary tool for monitoring the load of litter in the
marine environment and have been used world-wide to quantify and describe marine litter pollution.
Counting the number of individual items provides the best, easiest and cheapest information for formulation
of management measures at all levels (linking items to sources and uses). It is also the most practical
method; other additional methods can be valuable: e.g. the assessment of the weight of the items found.
Technical requirements: The beach litter monitoring surveys should take place on selected beaches which
are marked by reference landmarks or GPS coordinates. The entire 100 m beach stretch should be surveyed
from the tide line to the structures forming the border of the back of the beach (dunes, sea wall etc.). Litter
items found on the beach should be registered using a standard list of items. All the items should be
counted. The identification of items should be assisted by the use of a photo guide which is included in the
guidelines. During the monitoring session the litter should be removed from the beach.
Size range: Although in line with the OSPAR methods no lower size limit is proposed, litter items smaller
than 2.5 cm should be assessed additionally (in line with the NOAA protocol) using the method for meso-
litter on beaches, described in Toolsheet 10.1.1_T2. The assessment of microplastics in beach sediments is
also included in Chapter 7 (Task 6).
Spatial coverage: Survey area length 100 m; width determined by geography of the beach.
Survey frequency: At least four times a year.
Maturity of the tool: Comparable tools are in use.
Regional applicability of the tool: method can be applied in all regions of the EU. Regional differences in
items and their sources will need to be taken into account.
Source related information: Material, items and categories are linked to sources. A hierarchical
categorization system should be developed which groups items according to their type, application and
allocates them, where possible, to different sources. This should be compatible with other indicators.
References:
Cheshire A.C., Adler E., Barbière J., Cohen Y., Evans S., Jarayabhand S., Jeftic L., Jung R.T., Kinsey S., Kusui E.T. Lavine I.,
Manyara P., Oosterbaan L., Pereira M.A., Sheavly S., Tkalin A., Varadarajan S., Wenneker B. and Westphalen G. 2009.
UNEP/IOC Guidelines on Survey and Monitoring of Marine Litter. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies, No. 186;
IOC.
EPA/Ocean Conservancy. 2007. National Marine Debris Monitoring Program, final program report, data analysis &
summary.
Galgani, F., Fleet, D., van Franeker, J., Katsanevakis, S., Maes, T.,Mouat, J., Oosterbaan, L., Poitou, I., Hanke,
G.,Thompson, R., Amato, E., Birkun, A., Janssen, C Editor: Zampoukas. 2010. MSFD Task Group 10 Report Marine
litter.
HELCOM. 2008. HELCOM Recommendation 29/2 Guidelines on sampling and reporting of marine litter found on the
beach.
NOAA Marine Debris Division. Vision. 2010/2011. Marine Debris Density monitoring and Assessments (DRAFT).
OSPAR. 2010. Guideline for monitoring marine litter on beaches in the OSPAR area.
Ryan, P.G., Moore, C.J., Franeker, van, JA, Moloney C.L. 2009. Monitoring the abundance of plastic debris in the marine
environment.
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As visual surveys do have a practical lower size limit, it is proposed to close the gap between procedures
representatively quantifying macrolitter (> 2.5 cm) and microlitter (< 5 mm), which is a size fraction most
relevant for ingestion, by a specific methodology (Toolsheet 10.1.1_T2). A presentation of the proposal is
included in the following:
3.4 Future needs and further development
A standardized, well documented methodology for monitoring beach litter is crucial for collecting data that
can meet the MSFD objectives, needing a measurable and significant decrease in comparison with the initial
baseline in the total amount of beach litter by 2020.
Harmonization is necessary at every level, resulting in the following recommendations:
3.4.1 Development needs and options within 2012
Develop advice on monitoring strategy and implementation. Including:
o The identification of regions with a similar litter profile. Taking into account litter sources,
geographical, meteorological and hydrological conditions, as well as regional litter related
activities, practices and measures.
o Define the minimum amount of beaches (per country/region/EU) and number of surveys
necessary to be able to measure whether the MSFD objectives are met for a given region
within the defined timeframe.
o Develop detailed guidelines for monitoring beach litter based on existing programmes.
Including the monitoring of litter items < 2.5 cm and of microlitter in beach sediments.
Taking into account regional differences in relation to items and sources. All aspects of
monitoring, from choosing a beach to data collection as well as quality assurance and
quality control (QA/QC) should be described in detail. The guidelines must also include: a
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Sampling meso beach litter 5 mm - 25 mm size
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied for: 10.1.1
Tool code: 10.1.1_T2
Tool description: Sampling fragments of litter from beaches in the ‘meso’ size range (5 mm 25 mm).
Sediment is collected from within a 50 cm x 50 cm quadrat using a metal trowel or scoop to a depth of
3cm. Material is sieved (5 mm sieve) and fragments of litter removed and stored for further analyses.
Further analyses should include counting the number of items, categorizing according to material type
(plastic, glass, metal); use (where possible e.g. bottle cap closure), categorizing according to shape and
colour. It may be necessary to use FT-IR spectroscopy (see tool sheets on microlitter) to confirm the
identity of some pieces.
Technical requirements: Quadrat 50cm x 50cm, metal trowel or scoop, 5mm sieve.
Size range: Meso beach litter 5 mm 25 mm size.
Spatial coverage: Tool can be used to sample meso litter on beaches from a series of replicate quadrats
randomly distributed along the beach. The tool could most effectively be considered as an extension of the
protocols used to sample larger items of beach litter which are described in Toolsheet 10.1.1_T1,
alternatively it could be conducted at the same time as monitoring microlitter on beaches. Hence spatial
extent for this monitoring approach will most logically be dictated by the overall number of beaches
sampled for macro or microlitter.
Survey frequency: As for macro beach debris described in Toolsheet 10.1.1_T1
Maturity of the tool: Not yet used but similar protocols in use.
Regional applicability of the tool: Widely applicable but not yet used.
Source related information: Information could be complied in spatial data base and linked with
hydrodynamic and meteorological conditions, analysis of sampled material, categories, shapes
References: None - Not previously used but in line with NOAA protocol: NOAA Marine Debris Division
(2010/2011) Marine Debris Density monitoring and Assessments (DRAFT).
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questionnaire on the characteristics of survey beaches, an itemized survey data sheet
including a survey questionnaire and a photo guide of all litter items expected to be found
on the beach.
o A standard EU-wide list of litter items with unique identification codes should be developed.
This should include the development of a hierarchical categorization system, which groups
items according to their type and application and allocates them, where possible, to
different sources.
o If in some regions the standard 100 m length of beach cannot be adhered to for
geographical reasons the inclusion of shorter lengths of coastline for data collection needs
to be tested for comparability.
o Exchange of experience between regions/road testing draft guidelines.
3.4.2 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond
Monitoring strategies
o Monitoring more frequently than four times a year may provide better data. In France three
beaches are monitored on a monthly basis. Comprehensive drift models should define
source and destinations of litter regions, estimated residence times and average drift times.
Socio economic impact
o Evaluate the potential loss of income due to beach litter in relation to tourism.
o Evaluate direct costs to industry, local authorities and governments, to ecosystems goods
and services.
o Assess socially acceptable levels of marine litter (including aesthetic impact) to the society.
o Improve tools such as GIS; socio-economic models etc. enabling evaluations of sources of
litter, social impact and contribution to management efforts.
o Establish the impact of marine litter on human health.
o Understand the effectiveness of measures intended to reduce the amount of marine litter.
Develop a data handling and storage system, coordination, database, data entry, quality control etc.
Set up a communication tool for exchanging information.
Develop a table with conversion factors from number of items to weight of items.
Develop a standard method for data analysis.
Carry out further work on linking marine litter to sources.
4. Water Column and Surface Floating Litter
Floating items play an important role in the cycling of marine litter as they represent its mobile fraction and
the pathway between different environmental compartments. Floating litter has therefore been selected as
part of indicator 10.1.2 of the Commission Decision (2010/477/EU):
Trends in the amount of litter in the water column (including floating at the surface) and deposited on
the seafloor, including analysis of its composition, spatial distribution and, where possible, source
(10.1.2).
An understanding of the dynamics of floating litter is fundamental to developing appropriate strategies in
order to manage marine litter in both a global and local context. The objects encountered as floating marine
litter range from ship- or container -sized objects, fishing nets, drums, boxes, bottles, plastic bags, small
consumer items, object fragments and microlitter particles down to the nano- and molecular scale. Almost 90
% of floating marine litter has been estimated to be items made of polymers of anthropogenic origin.
There is a wide range of potential harm caused by floating litter. Ingestion by and entanglement of marine
biota such as seabirds, fish, turtles and marine mammals, with different object sizes affecting different species,
is one impact from litter at the sea surface. This is further discussed in Chapter 6 of the report. As precursors of
microlitter through physical degradation, floating items play an important role by triggering a whole range of
other environmental effects, see Chapter 7. Floating litter also has the potential to provide a vector for the
translocation of alien (invasive) species.
Pathways for the introduction are various, as floating litter in the marine environment can originate from
riverine input, shoreline run-off, aerial input of low density objects or from sources at sea such as disposal or
loss from ships or installations.
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Objects with positive buoyancy might be floating due to the properties of their material (polymer material with
positive buoyancy) or their design (bottles, containers, nets with floats, etc.). On the water surface they are
transported with the surface currents, though considerable influence through wind action can affect the
distribution of objects protruding from the surface.
It is assumed that these objects under influence from wave and weather action physically degrade and form
smaller litter pieces, down to the so-called microlitter, defined as particles below 5 mm in size. The physical
degradation can subsequently form particles in the micrometre range and below. The report deals with this
fraction in Chapter 7. The degradation process can include the change in chemical composition and structure
due to leaching of additives or polymer alteration by UV radiation.
Besides the obvious sinking of drums or bottles after damage, there are processes which can lead to a change
in object density and thus cause an object to sink, e.g. biofouling (accumulation of organic material (Law et al.,
2010)). Therefore the occurrence of litter in the water column (mid-water) would be limited to the steady
state concentration of sinking litter. Nevertheless e.g. down welling events or the occurrence of litter having
the same density as the surrounding seawater may lead to litter suspended in the water column as included
under Indicator 10.1.2. This is regarded by the group as a matter for further research and the report will
concentrate on litter floating at the surface, including litter which is temporarily mixed into the subsurface
water through wave action.
The affected water depth is typically a few meters and will depend on the buoyancy of the objects and the sea
state. Recent reports indicate that smaller particles might rapidly be mixed under water, but take longer time
to re-surface (Prokurowski et al., 2011).
The monitoring of microlitter will be discussed here only for sampling methodologies where the size ranges for
different monitoring methodologies overlap.
4.1 Availability of data
While visual observation of litter from ships is the most obvious methodology for quantification of floating
litter in the marine environment there have been comparatively little surveys been reported. When cross-
checking with scientific publications it becomes apparent that the survey methodologies are often slightly
different and results therefore are difficult to compare. No multiannual time series of more than 5 years
coverage have been reported. There are no surveys available which cover large areas or regional scale.
Selected information about the collected data availability on surface floating litter is given in Annex 3, which
has been extracted from the data collection table referred to in Chapter 2.
4.2 Availability of methods
The methodologies for monitoring floating macroscopic litter are mostly observation methods. Surveys can be
done with the naked eye or by using images from different kind of platforms such as fixed structures, ships,
airplanes (Ribic et al., 1992, Veenstra and Churnside, 2011). No litter is actually collected and surveys will be
subject to meteorological conditions. Protocols and reporting forms are available (Cheshire et al., 2009, NOAA,
2011, Thiel et al., 2011), but methodologies might need further development for the collection of data for
trend assessments. For smaller litter items surface net trawls can be employed.
4.3 Tool sheet development
For the purpose of this report available techniques for quantification of floating litter have been reviewed. As
agreed in the work plan for the MSFD GES TSG Marine Litter group, approaches currently in use have been
identified and are presented as “tools” for the implementation of MSFD Descriptor 10. As they have not been
developed specifically for MSFD purposes, they may need to be further developed or adapted to regional or
local circumstances. Their degree of maturity is indicated and the roadmap highlights further
development needs. Also new, promising tools are described in the roadmap section. The selection of an
appropriate methodology will depend on the required object size range to be monitored.
Litter size dependent options:
For object size > 30-40 cm aerial observation can be suitable.
For 2.5 cm - 30-40 cm object size observation from ships can be suitable.
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For smaller objects (e.g. > 2.5 cm) trawl nets can be suitable, depending on sampling width and
density of occurrence, see also Chapter 7 on microlitter.
4.3.1 Visual ship based observation
The visual observation from ships is the most often used methodology for the quantification of floating marine
litter. The methodology is very much dependent on the observer’s aim, the protocol, the ship and the
observation conditions. As the results depend on these various external factors the comparison between
different surveys and thus trend assessments are difficult. Harmonised protocols for reporting and detailed
recording of observation conditions are crucial. It is likely that such surveys are being performed during
already scheduled cruises for other purposes or on ships-of-opportunity.
Guidelines and scientific publications provide approaches for the quantification of marine litter. The UNEP
(Cheshire et al., 2009) guidelines describe approaches for detailed monitoring of 5 x 5 km areas by
subsampling through dedicated surveys, and also surveys along line transects, as they would be typical when
using ships-of-opportunity.
US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed protocols, called the
Shipboard Observation Form for Floating Marine Debris (Arthur et al., 2011). They are based on methods used
in studies of floating marine litter, previous shipboard observational studies conducted at sea by NOAA, and
the experience and input of the yacht sailors. The goal of this form is to be able to calculate the density of
marine litter within the transect area using a slightly modified version of the formula used by Matsumura and
Nasu, 1997, Shiomoto and Kameda, 2005, and Thiel et al., 2003. Ecoocean is performing visual transect
monitoring on the Mediterranean Sea since 2006 (Ecoocean, 2012).
Source attribution by identification and categorisation of floating objects can be difficult. Simplified
classification systems have been proposed where litter is observed remotely, because it is often impossible to
distinguish items based on material composition (Cheshire et al., 2009). The operated classification system
should be compatible with the one used for other Descriptor 10 indicators. It is important that litter categories
are compatible among the different surveyed matrices.
The litter density should be calculated according to the strip transect method (Hinojosa and Thiel, 2009):
D = n/((w/1000) x L)
n = # of litter observed
w = maximum distance perpendicular to the transect
L = total length (in km) of the transect
It should be mentioned that observation targeting smaller items, e.g. down to 2.5 cm (compatible with
shoreline survey size limits) can be done (Day and Shaw, 1987) but will have an influence on the observation
corridor. The planning of surveys, use of protocols and briefing of observers should clearly identify the survey
scope and recognise its limitations.
Although there is no theoretical upper size limit for the visual observations, typically larger objects are less
abundant and may not be found representatively in a narrow observation transect.
Survey location
The selection of the observation transects depends on the aim of the survey. In an initial phase gradients and
distribution patterns need to be understood. This information can then be used to select survey areas for
trend assessments. Sampling locations can be e.g. in accumulation areas created by wind and currents, or
reference areas with little variability. The selection of these sites can be supported by hydrographical
(currents), meteorological (wind direction patterns) or source related information such as vicinity of estuaries
or cities. Further work and agreement is needed in order to guide the selection of survey locations for the
trend assessments.
Survey timing
The frequency of the surveys should be selected according to the needs for a statistically sound trend
assessment. This will need an initial phase in order to understand patterns of variability in time. The timing of
surveys will be much influenced through weather conditions and the availability of an observation platform.
The following 3 tools have been identified:
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4.3.2 Surface observation from air
Aerial surveys can be a way forward in detecting larger litter items, while allowing for broad area surveys. A
typical lower size limit for aerial surveys is ca. 30-40 cm, while satellite images have less resolution. These
monitoring techniques are therefore suitable for the detection of larger objects, such as derelict fishing gear
(floating nets) or large litter accumulation spots (Veenstra and Churnside, 2011).
The aerial surveys are very likely to be based on set-ups prepared for the evaluation of the abundance of
marine fauna on the sea surface. The methodology has been applied in the German bight during cetacean
surveys (Herr, 2009, Thiel et al., 2011). This methodology has been applied in recent years in some countries to
estimate the population abundance of marine mammals, sea turtles and fishes (Heide-Jorgensen et al., 2010,
Lauriano et al., 2011, Palka, 2006, Panigada et al., 2011). Also surveys on the Black Sea have been performed
(BSC, 2007). The survey is usually designed using the ‘distance sampling method’ along parallel line transects
(Buckland et al., 2001, Thomas et al., 2010). The platform is an aircraft equipped appropriate observation
windows to enable a full view of the track line. Experience has shown that aerial litter surveys need method
adaptation and their execution in addition to other tasks (such as cetacean monitoring) is subject to the
availability of dedicated observers and an appropriate flight plan.
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Visual surface observation from ship
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied for: 10.1.2
Tool code: 10.1.2_Water T1
Tool description: Visual observation of a surface sample area by observers.
Technical requirements: Ship (of opportunity), observation without binoculars.
Size range: 2.5 cm (depending on survey set-up) limited by observation area/item occurrence density.
Spatial coverage: Hours of observing transects (x m width of transect) at vessel speed.
Survey frequency: Several times a year, also depending on opportunities.
Maturity of the tool: In use for years, need for harmonisation and scientific studies on comparability
between different observation set-ups and representativeness (Cameras can be an option for automatized
surveys).
Regional applicability of the tool: Weather dependency, calm sea required.
Source related information: Coordinates linked with hydrodynamic and meteorological conditions,
categories, shapes.
References:
Cheshire A.C., Adler E., Barbière J., Cohen Y., Evans S., Jarayabhand S., Jeftic L., Jung R.T., Kinsey S., Kusui E.T. Lavine I.,
Manyara P., Oosterbaan L., Pereira M.A., Sheavly S., Tkalin A., Varadarajan S., Wenneker B., Westphalen G. 2009.
UNEP/IOC Guidelines on Survey and Monitoring of Marine Litter. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies, No. 186;
IOC.
Thiel, M., Hinojosa, I.A., Joschko, T., Gutow, L. 2011. Spatio-temporal distribution of floating objects in the German
Bight (North Sea) , Journal of Sea Research 65: 368-37.
Surface observation from ship (10.1.2_Water T1)
Surface observation from air (10.1.2_Water T2)
Surface trawl net survey (10.1.2_Water T3)
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4.3.3 Surface net trawls
The trawling for surface floating litter is a method which, due to the distribution and frequency of occurrence
is mostly suited to a representative sampling of meso and microlitter. Depending on the sampled survey area
and trawl design also larger items could be sampled representatively. This depends on the opening of the
employed net types and the expected object occurrence density and needs to be demonstrated in the
sampling design.
The group considered a net mesh size of 333 µm, typically used for zooplankton sampling, as appropriate for
marine litter monitoring. Smaller mesh sizes are indicated for specific purposes regarding microlitter.
Therefore trawl net and filtration techniques are mainly described in the chapter on microlitter. Initial datasets
are needed in order to derive the upper size limit reasonably to be reported.
Trawl/Net types
The main types of surface trawls which can be used for surface monitoring are:
- Neuston
- Horizontal Bongo
- Manta (hi-speed/lo-speed)
- Inflatable Macro Litter trawls.
Different net sizes and trawl types have been used in litter surveys across the world, with mesh sizes ranging
between 80 µm to 2 mm. The Manta trawl has two angled wings which keep it floating on the surface and a
top lid that directs surface splash back into the trawl. It looks a bit like a manta ray hence its name. The trawl
has a top opening and is lined by a mesh net which terminates in a small collection sock called the cod end.
The manta trawl skims the surface layers and traps particles with sizes between this mouth aperture and the
mesh size of the net used (Brown and Cheng, 1981). It has been used for surface water monitoring of meso-
and microlitter (Algalita, 2004).
Neuston nets have a typical design featuring a large, rectangular metal net frame with a relatively long fine
meshed net which allows sampling substantial water volumes at or near the surface. Different net openings,
lengths and mesh sizes are available, they will mainly determine the speed of trawling and size limit of
samples. Bongo nets are paired mesh nets attached to a metal frame which allow taking samples throughout
the water column. The net openings can vary in diameter and have long, micro meshed nets and collecting
bags attached to them, cod ends, where the particles are concentrated. Bongo samples are typically towed
obliquely so that all depths (except the deepest point) are sampled twice. Specialised bongo nets with
remotely closable mouths exist so samples can be taken at different selected depths. This means bongo nets
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Surface observation from air
Indicator for which the tool can be applied : 10.1.2
Tool code: 10.1.2_Water T2
Tool description: Visual observation of a surface sample area by observers from airplane.
Technical requirements: Airplane, slow speed, observation without binoculars.
Size range: min: 30-40 cm (depending on altitude) max: limited by sample area.
Spatial coverage: Hours of observing transects (x m width of transect) at airplane speed and altitude.
Survey frequency: Several times a year, also depending on opportunities.
Maturity of the tool: In use for years, need for harmonisation and scientific studies on comparability
between different observation set-ups and representativeness.
Regional applicability of the tool: Weather dependency.
Source related information: Coordinates linked with hydrodynamic and meteorological conditions,
categories, shapes.
References:
Herr, H., Vorkommen von Schweinswalen (Phocoena phocoena) in Nord- und Ostsee im Konflikt mit Schifffahrt und
Fischerei? , Department of Biology, Hamburg University 2009
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are suitable for sampling both the surface and the water column. There are flow meters in the mouths of the
nets so that the volume of water filtered can be calculated accurately.
Fig. 3. A high-speed Manta trawl. (© Crown copyright 2011, permission granted by Cefas)
Not all types of trawls have to be specifically developed for
marine litter surveys; adaptation of existing structures may
deliver low cost options.
The depth of the sampled water will depend on the net type used
and the results will depend on the sea conditions also in the time
prior to sampling, as surface floating particles may have been
mixed into the upper water column.
Fig. 4. A double paired horizontal bongo net.
Also some methodologies for monitoring biota impacted by litter, e.g. by ingestion, are an indicator of floating
marine litter (e.g. seabird ingested litter), but these described under Chapter 6 (Impact of litter on marine life)
whereas the indicator 10.1.2 regards the unbiased physical quantification of litter presence.
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Surface trawl
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied for: 10.1.2
Tool code: 10.1.2_Water T3
Tool description: Towing of trawl net on surface.
Technical requirements: ship, trawl net.
Size range: 333 µm e.g. 2.5 cm (max size for representative sampling depending on net type and survey
design).
Spatial coverage: Examples: High speed trawl: 30 min at 6 knots (15.5 cm x 50 cm (20 cm in water)).
Low speed trawl: 15 min at 1-2 knots (100 cm x 30 cm)
Survey frequency: Likely to be based on existing cruises for fish stock assessment and limited by weather
conditions.
Maturity of the tool: In use for years, further harmonisation and scientific studies on comparability of
different designs and sampling representativity needed.
Regional applicability of the tool: Limited by prevailing weather conditions
Source related information: Coordinates linked with hydrodynamic and meteorological conditions, analysis
of sampled material, categories, shapes.
References:
Algalita. 2004. Quality Assurance Project Plan - Assess Sources of Plastic and Trash in Urban and Coastal Waters, Marine
Research Foundation, 148 N. Marina Drive Long Beach, CA 90803.
Maes, CEFAS. 2012. UK case studies manta trawl.
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4.4 Future needs and further development
4.4.1 Development needs and options within 2012
Visual observations, in particular from ships are a methodology which can readily be employed. Depending on
the selected observation transects research vessels or ships-of-opportunity, such as ferries, freight or cruise
ships can be used.
The development, endorsement and dissemination of a common Visual Shipboard Observation
protocol for use in MSFD D10 implementation appears to be feasible and should be done on a short
time scale. This will enable MS to gather comparable data of good quality for their assessments.
Further discussion on the size range to be reported is needed. This regards in particular the main
“target size range” which should be monitored. The lower size range will depend on the observation
elevation and the transect width, as smaller items (e.g. down to 2.5 cm) can only be observed in a
narrow corridor. There should also be an estimation of the representative sampling of larger items,
which also depends on the statistical distribution.
The initial assessments made by EU MS until then should be analysed for their approaches and this
information should be exchanged among MS authorities on a common platform.
Costs of different monitoring options should be estimated.
While currently there is little knowledge about the distribution of litter items, a common view on the
sampling strategy should be developed at EU level on a short time scale. This regards e.g. the
approach for monitoring estuaries in relation to riverine input, or accumulation zones and background
reference areas.
The link between monitoring of floating marine litter and the identification of their sources should be
further enhanced.
4.4.2 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond
First assessments of surface floating litter should lead to an improvement in the assessment strategy over the
next few years. Research efforts should provide insight into pathways and transportation pattern of litter.
Monitoring efforts can then be focused on selected areas with known characteristics and monitoring programs
of EU MS can provide data for reliable trend assessments.
Identified research priorities should be communicated to research funding organisations at national and EU
level (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation).
The experts on Marine Litter involved in the implementation of MSFD should observe developments and
promote promising approaches. The aim should be to achieve an improved knowledge of factors determining
the distribution of litter at sea in time for the revision of the Commission Decision (2010/477/EU) and react by
adjusting Descriptor 10 indicators, if needed.
Triggered by scientific research needs and the requirements for monitoring, some upcoming methodologies
have been developed recently. They will need careful evaluation for their possible application for the purpose
of MSFD marine litter monitoring in observing trends as indicators for successful measure implementation.
Among the upcoming developments are the following:
4.4.2.1 Camera based systems
The use of camera based observation systems has great potential in harmonising visual observations of
floating litter from different platforms. A system for the quantification of litter items on surface transects
based on a high resolution camera and image recognition technology “JRC Sealittercam” is currently under
development at the European Commission Joint Research Centre JRC. The system acquires images through a
high resolution CCD camera pointing to the sea surface and evaluates images through image recognition
(Hanke and Piha, 2011).
The Sealittercam was mounted on the bow at 16 m elevation on a Costa Crociere cruise ship. With a 50 mm
lens a lower observation size limit of 2.5 cm can be achieved. Image recognition software parameters are
currently being adjusted for identification of litter items. Automated systems have the advantage of covering
very large areas and allow quality control of the results, including better possibility for object categorisation.
The approach has been tested in 2010 and 2011 on transects in the Western Mediterranean Sea.
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Fig. 5. Sealittercam developed by JRC.
4.4.2.2 Modelling approaches
Besides the development of new monitoring tools, the development of approaches using surface current
modelling at relevant scales for forecast of accumulation areas with small scale models and targeted
observations appears to be promising for further development. That could support the selection of
appropriate beach locations, seafloor accumulation areas and surface water monitoring. This should involve
national and regional agencies using e.g. models for oil spill distribution predictions and experiences as well as
research efforts at EU scale and beyond. Exchange of information through an appropriate portal should be
ensured.
4.4.2.3 Combined satellite, aerial imagery and modelling
Remote sensing with application of satellite radar, multispectral data and airborne remote sensing (particularly
radar) can be used to identify eddies and convergence zones in the open sea. A multistage modelling and
remote sensing approach is proposed for the identification of areas of the open ocean where litter items are
more likely to congregate. A path forward may best be achieved through the refinement of existing procedures
with the addition of a final search stage using airborne radar from an UAS simulator aircraft to detect zones of
potential accumulation for direct search (Mace, 2011). NOAA and NASA have been planning tests of synthetic
aperture radar (SAR) instrument that can see through cloud cover to detect ocean features that might
accumulate marine litter. This particular SAR is designed to be mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV),
so it is called a UAVSAR. Maps of likely litter accumulation locations are prepared using sea surface
temperature and photosynthetic chlorophyll data from satellite sensors. The litter estimated likelihood index
(DELI) map that averages data before flights shows the areas they expect to contain more litter. These maps
are used as a guide for planned flight tracks.
Temporal resolution is limited by orbit characteristics (for satellites), flight duration (for aircraft), and weather
conditions. Polar orbiting satellites vary considerably but usually range from several days to a month or more,
depending on swath width and altitude. Aircraft are generally limited to less than 10 h for piloted and less than
30 h for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Area coverage is limited by the airspeed of the aircraft, making large
areas difficult to survey at high repeat rates. Weather is a severe constraining factor for all optical
measurements, but less so for observations in the microwave portion of the spectrum (Mace, 2011).
5. Litter on the Sea Floor
Indicator 10.1 (Characteristics of litter in the marine and coastal environment) of Descriptor 10 includes the
trends in the amounts of litter deposited on the seafloor, with analysis of its composition, spatial distribution
and, where possible, source Commission Decision (2010/477/EU). There are currently no coordinated national
or regional monitoring programmes for litter on the seabed within Europe. Only some experimental
monitoring in some countries has been described (Galgani and Piha, 2010). However there are monitoring
programs for demersal fish stocks undertaken as part of the International Bottom Trawl Surveys that can
provide information on the amount and composition of litter on the seafloor. There is also no quality
assurance program for litter monitoring on the sea floor.
25 | P a g e
The abundance and distribution of marine litter show considerable spatial variability. The geographical
distribution of litter on the sea floor is strongly influenced by hydrodynamics, geomorphology and human
factors. Under the weight of fouling by a wide variety of organisms, most litter will eventually sink to the
bottom. Currents will enable transportation of litter to areas of accumulation, such as the seafloor. Moreover,
there is notable temporal, particularly seasonal, variation with a tendency for accumulation and concentration
along coastal and particular geographical areas. Interpretation of temporal trends is therefore complicated by
annual variations in litter transport, such as seasonal changes in flow rate of rivers and related turbidity
currents. Other seasonal factors include the intensity of currents, swell and upwelling and the conformation of
deep sea floor, which influence both the distribution and densities. Nevertheless, considering existing data, it
would appear that the Mediterranean Sea is the most affected part of the European Seas. Due to the
persistence of some litter materials, the monitoring of litter on the sea floor must consider accumulation
processes for past decades. Timescales of observation should therefore be adapted, requiring multiannual
frequencies for sea floor surveys. Finally, the data can be amalgamated to produce values for local, regional
and basin and European level. UNEP has developed recommended protocols, considered by the International
Council for the Exploration of the Sea International Bottom Trawl Surveys Working Group (ICES/ IBTS WG)
and OSPAR meetings (Galgani and Piha, 2010) but no methodological standards exist. A classification system
using 6 categories is in use (Cheshire et al., 2009). The TSG ML recommends harmonizing categorizations
between shorelines, water surface and sea floor evaluations. However the different compartments of sea floor
require different monitoring approaches:
5.1 Availability of methods
5.1.1 Shallow waters
In shallow coastal areas (< 40 m depth), the abundance of marine litter is generally much greater than on the
continental shelf or on the deep seafloor, with the exception of some accumulation zones in the open sea
(Katsanevakis, 2008). This is especially true in bays due to weaker currents; litter disposed locally is more likely
to accumulate on the bottom. Furthermore wave or upwelling-induced cleaning of the seafloor is of less
importance in small bays, where usually there is much less transport. In shallow coastal areas, fishing activities
of the coastal fleet significantly contribute to littering of the seafloor (Katsanevakis and Katsarou, 2004).
The most commonly used method to estimate marine litter density in shallow coastal areas is to conduct
underwater visual surveys with SCUBA, although snorkelling or manta tow have also been applied for very
shallow waters (usually < 10 m depth) and for larger forms of marine litter (nets/gear). These surveys were
mostly based on plot sampling and especially strip transects where all items can be counted and type or size
may be recorded (Table 1). There is however an underestimation of abundance. This is overcome by applying
distance sampling, which is a group of methods for estimating abundance and/or population density (Buckland
et al., 2001). The most commonly used Distance Sampling method for underwater surveys is line transect
sampling. The standard software for modelling detectability and estimating density/abundance, based on
distance sampling surveys, is DISTANCE (Thomas et al., 2006).
In areas with high litter densities, clear water and low sea bottom complexity (e.g. sandy bottoms) narrow strip
transects may be preferred. In areas with low litter densities (where large sampling surfaces are needed to
obtain a sufficiently high number of records), turbid waters, and/or high sea bottom complexity (e.g. rocky
reefs, sea grass beds) imperfect detectability is an important issue and should not be ignored; line transects
should be preferred and detectability should be estimated. The field protocols for line transect surveys of litter
on the seabed are exactly the same as those for benthic sessile fauna, described in detail in Katsanevakis
(2009). Table 1 provides some hints on the selection of the appropriate method and sampling unit depending
on the expected density of marine litter.
26 | P a g e
Table 1. Proposed method and indicative sampling units depending on anticipated litter density
and environmental conditions.
Litter density
Conditions
Method
Sampling unit (strips:
length x width)
>1 items/m2
Low turbidity - low habitat complexity
plot sampling
10 m x 2 m
>1 items/ m2
all other cases
plot sampling
20 m x 1 m
0.1-1 items/ m2
Low turbidity - low habitat complexity
plot sampling
20 m x 4 m
0.1-1 items/ m2
Low turbidity - high habitat complexity
distance sampling
20 m x 4 m
0.1-1 items/ m2
high turbidity
distance sampling
20 m x 4 m
0.01-0.1 items/ m2
for every case
distance sampling
100 m x 8 m
<0.01 items/ m2
for every case
distance sampling
200 m x 8 m
Linking shallow-water monitoring surveys to existing biological monitoring programs with SCUBA might
improve cost-efficiency. Such biological monitoring based on strip or line transects is regularly conducted in
many Marine Protected Areas or other sites within the framework of long-term monitoring projects. An
additional effort to record marine litter together with the target benthic species could be possible; but will
depend on the details of the surveys and its requirements.
In many regions underwater clean-ups are organized by diving clubs, local authorities, NGOs, citizens’
initiatives, etc. For example, Project AWARE Foundation “Dive Against Debris” effort provides guidelines and
field protocols for scuba divers to collect and report marine litter found underwater so that results from
different surveys would be comparable as much as possible. Cooperation with such initiatives might be a good
opportunity for some Member States for shallow-water litter monitoring but standardization and conformity
with the common methodologies and tools proposed here should be achieved. It also has to be noted that to
reduce variability and thus to be able to increase precision in the estimation of trends, surveyed sites should
be fixed and not selected on a basis of opportunity. This might be an important issue when clean-up
campaigns by volunteers and NGOs are used as a means for litter.
5.1.2 Shelves
Surveys of macro-litter loads on the seabed have been conducted mainly using trawl surveys. This method is
the most adequate method to date, although quantities of litter are underestimated. It should be considered
as a method for estimating relative litter densities rather than absolute densities. A constant trawl mouth
width is required. General strategies to investigate seabed litter are similar to methodology for benthic
ecology and place more emphasis on the abundance and nature (e.g. bags, bottles, and pieces of plastics) of
items rather than their mass. Just like stranded litter, litter on the seabed aggregates locally in response to
local sources and bottom topography.
As part of the assessment of the status of the fish stocks in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, western European waters
and Mediterranean sea (i.e. Celtic Sea, Bay of Biscay and Eastern Atlantic from Shetlands to Gibraltar,
European Mediterranean coasts), fisheries institutes of the bordering countries have for many years carried
out research vessel surveys. At present four major international trawl surveys can be distinguished: the
International Bottom Trawl Survey (IBTS, Table 2), the Baltic International Trawl Surveys (BITS), the Beam Trawl
Survey (BTS) and Mediterranean Trawl Survey (MEDITS). Although initially these surveys were coordinated at
the national level, over the years a number of these trawl surveys have evaluated into standardized
international research programs. These programs in OSPAR/HELCOM/MEDPOL/BSC sub regions cover all
shelves on a regular basis (annually). They are dedicated to fish stock assessment and may be used for litter
data collection. The following programs may provide means for litter monitoring on the sea floor, including
quality insurance.
27 | P a g e
Table 2. Summary of International Bottom Trawl Surveys (IBTS) cruises in Western Europe.
Country
Location
Number of hauls
Trawl width (m)
Trawl type (mesh)
Depth (m)
Bottom Trawl Survey
Belgium
southern North sea
60
8
beam
<50
The Netherlands
South eastern North sea
8
beam (40 mm)
<50
Germany
South eastern North sea
60
7
beam (75 mm)
<50
England
Channel
91
4
beam (40 mm)
<50
France
Bay of Biscay
beam (40 mm)
< 200
IBTS North sea
The Netherlands
Belgium
France (IBTS)
Southern North sea
80
20
GOV 36/47 (20 mm)
<50
England (IBTS)
North sea
Scotland (IBTS)
North sea
36/47 GOV (20 mm)
20-500
Norway
North sea
Denmark
North sea
National Bottom Trawl Surveys
Portugal
Portugal
76-85
15
Campell 1800/96 NCT (20 mm)
20-500
Spain(PGFS)
Porcupine
80
Baka trawl 40/52 (20 mm)
170-800
Spain (NGFS)
Northern Spain
120
21
Baka trawl 44/6 (20 mm)
15-700
Spain (SGFS)
Gulf of Cadix
75
21
Baka trawl 44/6 (20 mm)
35-700
Spain (Arsa-GC)
Baka trawl 44/6 (20 mm)
France ( EVHOE)
Biscay , Celtic
135
20
GOV 36/47 (20 mm)
30-600
France (CGFS)
Channel (CGFS)
105
20
GOV 36/47 (20 mm)
<50
England(CEFAS)
North Sea
England (CEFAS)
Channel
PHHT (20 mm)
England (CEFAS)
Celtic sea
PHHT (20 mm)
Ireland (WCGS, ISCGS)
West Ireland, Celtic sea
70
rock-hopper (20 mm)
15-300
Ireland (NIGS)
Northern Ireland & St Georges
57
rock-hopper (20 mm)
15-300
Scotland (SWCS/VI A)
West Scotland
2-8/ICES square
36/47 GOV (20 mm)
20 to 500
Scotland (SGD6B)
28 | P a g e
5.1.2.1 International Bottom Trawl Surveys IBTS
The IBTS consists of a number of national surveys stated in 1990 that aim at improving standardization and
collaboration between surveys. Two areas can be distinguished that differ in terms of the length of trawl time
and hence the degree to which standardization was achieved: IBTS North Sea and IBTS Western and Southern
areas.
In the North Sea, The IBTS has been carried out twice per year since 1997 using a standardized protocol. In
1994, it was suggested to extend the remit of the ICES/IBTS Working Group to co-ordinate and standardize the
surveys in the western and southern areas.
For southern and western seas, each country conducts surveys in adjacent areas with no overlap. Due to the
variation in bottom types, each country uses a different gear. With the sampling protocols, however, a
significant level of standardization is achieved and all countries are using the same sampling strategy. Details
on protocols are available for each country (http://datras.ices.dk/Home/Descriptions.aspx#IBTS) and are
described by IBTS (2004).
5.1.2.2 Baltic International Trawl Surveys BITS
The Baltic cod stock has been monitored annually since 1982 through bottom trawl surveys carried out by most
countries surrounding the Baltic. The national research vessels have each surveyed part of the area with some
overlap in coverage and applied a depth stratified sampling design. After agreement a common standard trawl
gear and standard sampling procedures were implemented in 2000 resulting in the coverage of the whole
Baltic Sea. The design and construction of the standard trawls (20 mm mesh) are given in ICES (2007) and can
also be found in the BITS manual (ICES, 2011). The BITS is conducted as a depth-stratified survey. The standard
haul is a 30-min haul with a towing speed of 3 knots.
5.1.2.3 Beam Trawl Survey BTS
During the 1980’s, five countries bordering the North Sea and western waters of the UK had developed a range
of beam trawl surveys. Despite the fact that a number of different gears and survey designs being used,
sampling methods, data collection and storage, have been standardized to a considerable extent. Surveys are
performed in the North Sea (Netherlands), Channel and Irish Seas (England), German Bight (Germany),
southern North Sea (Belgium) and Bay of Biscay (France).
5.1.2.4 Mediterranean Trawl Survey MEDITS
The MEDITS program is an international survey conducted for fish stock assessments. It is financially supported
by the European Commission (DG Mare) and the participating countries. It consists of bottom trawling along all
Mediterranean shelves (Table 3). It also includes deeper sites (200-800 m) (MEDITS, 2007).
29 | P a g e
Fig. 6. General map of the area covered by the MEDITS programme.
Table 3. MEDITS, trawling experiments in Mediterranean European countries. Non-
European countries such as Morocco, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania are participating
in the MEDITS program. (Coordinator: M.T. Spedicato )
Country
GSA geographical sub-area
Number of surveys
Area
Cyprus
25
26
Cyprus
France
7
95
Gulf Lion, Corsica
Greece
20
32
Eastern Ionian sea
Greece
22
21
Aegean sea
Greece
22
65
North Aegean Sea
Greece
22
61
South Aegean sea
Italy
9
120
N Tyrrhenian sea
Italy
10
70
S Tyrrhenian sea
Italy
11
98
Sardinia
Italy
16
120
Strait Sicily
Italy
17
121
North Adriatic
Italy
19
70
South Adriatic
Italy
19
70
Ionian sea (NW)
Malta
15
45
Malta
Slovenia
17
2
North Adriatic
Spain
1,2
46
Alboran sea
Spain
5
60
Balearic islands
Spain
6
92
Northern Spain
The sampling gear is a bottom trawl (GOC73, horizontal opening of 20 m). The hauls are made in the same
position from year to year at fixed strata limits: 10 - 50 m, 50 - 100 m, 100 - 200 m, 200 - 500 m, 500 - 800 m.
The Posidonia oceanica grasslands are excluded from the sampling scheme and should never been trawled. The
haul duration is fixed at 30 minutes on depths less than 200 m and 60 minutes at depths > 200 m. The cod end
mesh size is 20 mm. Hauls are made at constant depth (+/- 5%) and rectilinear.
5.1.2.5 Black Sea program
In the Bucharest Bilateral Coordination Meeting (February 2010) Bulgaria and Romania agreed to conduct a
common demersal trawl surveys in Romanian and Bulgarian areas (Appendix IX, Commission Decision
2008/949/EC). Mainly to define the stock biomass indices and respectively the annual quota for turbot fishery,
they are undertaking surveys on annual basis, using the same methodology and where the same type of litter
data could be collected. This program is linked to the MEDITS program with harmonized methodology and
Black sea is quoted as number 29 of the MEDITS areas.
5.1.2.6 "Fishing for Litter" initiatives
"Fishing for Litter" initiatives have been implemented to remove litter mainly from the seabed of the North Sea
(OSPAR, 2007). It is an activity where fishing vessels brings ashore litter caught in their nets as part of their
fishing activities. The initiative is coordinated by KIMO International (The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Isle of
Man, and Faeroes) and promotes a responsible attitude within the fishing industry towards this problem. NABU
has launched a first “Fishing for Litter” project in the Baltic Sea in 2011. Besides environmental benefits, the
fishing industry in particular will benefit from the initiative through the reduced risks of damages to fishing gear
and contamination of catches. KIMO Baltic has also begun a scheme. Total figures for the FFL schemes
operated by KIMO in 2010/11 are as follows: 390 vessels, 40 harbors, 700 tonnage collected.
To date, most studies have measured amounts of litter collected but not on regular bases. Litter has been
collected by the boats involved in the initiative, which is run in the North Sea. In the Baltic Sea 20 vessels have
joined the initiative so far. Data may be of importance locally to evaluate composition and sources of litter but
will not be included in large scale monitoring network to assess litter on the sea floor.
30 | P a g e
5.1.3 Deep sea floor
Studies that investigate seabed litter typically focus on continental shelves, while research into the deeper
seabed, which forms about half the planet’s surface, is restricted by sampling difficulties and cost. Large-scale
evaluations of deep seabed litter distribution and densities anywhere are scarce. Of the areas investigated
along European coasts to date (Galgani et al., 2000), Mediterranean sites tend to show the greatest densities.
In general, bottom litter tends to become trapped in areas of low circulation and high sediment accumulation
in contrast to floating litter, which accumulates in frontal areas. Litter that reaches the seabed may already
have been transported for considerable distances, only sinking when weighed down by fouling. The
consequence is an accumulation of plastics litter in bays and canyons rather than the open sea. Some
accumulation zones in the Atlantic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea have very high litter densities despite being
far from coasts. These densities relate to the consequence of large-scale residual ocean circulation patterns
and locally to the morphology of the sea bed (around rocks and/or in depressions or channels). Deep
submarine extensions of coastal rivers also influence the distribution of seabed litter. In some areas, local
water movements transport marine litter away from the coast to accumulate in zones of high sedimentation.
Continental shelves have locally lower concentrations of litter since most of the anthropogenic litter in the
outer shelf originates from coasts to shelves that are washed offshore by currents associated with river plumes.
Investigations using submersibles at depths beyond the continental shelf have revealed substantial quantities
of litter mainly in canyons adjacent to large cities (up to 112 items per kilometre and 70% plastics). Only some
areas/countries are concerned along the European coasts including Norwegian trench, France, Spain, Portugal,
Italy, and Greece. For evaluation of litter and monitoring, the use of trawl in deep-sea areas will be restricted to
flat and smooth bottoms. For slopes and rocky bottoms, special means are necessary including Remotely
Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and submersibles that are very expensive to operate. ROVs are simpler and generally
cheaper and must be recommended for litter surveys. There are some available protocols where litter is
counted on routes. The route survey results are expressed as item/km. Litter occurrence density quantification
should be performed taken the survey width into account so that they can be compared to other methods.
5.2 Tool sheet development
Following the activity of the group focusing on developing toolboxes with applicable monitoring/quantification
methods for the further MSFD Descriptor 10 implementation, tool sheets have been developed and agreed to
support the monitoring of litter on the sea floor (Table 4).
Altogether four monitoring tools are presented for litter monitoring on the sea floor:
SCUBA surveys for shallow seabed Plot Sampling (10.1.2_Seafloor T1)
SCUBA surveys for shallow seabed Distance Sampling (10.1.2_ Seafloor T2)
Trawling surveys (10.1.2_ Seafloor T3)
Submersibles (10.1.2_ Seafloor T4).
31 | P a g e
Table 4. Summary of methods available for litter evaluation on sea floor.
Component
Shallow waters
Continental shelves and canyon bottoms
Deep sea floor
Depth
0 40 m
40 800 m
200 - 2500 m
Areas to be
monitored
Coastal
Shelves
Priorities must be considered and given to deep sea
areas close to sources (costal, urban, affected by litter).
Approach
Diving
Trawling
Submersibles (ROVs - Autonomous or manned
submersibles)
Existing program
E.g. Project AWARE dive against
debris, NGO initiative
MEDITS related programs (including Black Sea),
IBTS related (IBTS, EVHOE, CGFS, ….) Cruises
(OSPAR/ICES)
Irregular dives (France)
Areas not
concerned
Baltic countries, North Sea countries, North Adriatic,
etc.
Areas largely
concerned
All Mediterranean countries, Baltic
Any shelf
Mediterranean (Spain, France, West and south east
Italy, Greece, Cyprus), Portugal, England (Partly)
Sample size
10-2000 m2
1-5 ha
0.1-2 km routes / dive
Units
Density (items/ha)
Density (items/ ha , per categories)
Items (per categories) / km route
Categories
Plastic, paper and cardboard glass and
ceramics, metal, leather/clothes,
others, fishing gear
Plastic, paper and cardboard glass and ceramics,
metal, leather/clothes, others fishing gear
Plastic, paper and cardboard glass and ceramics, metal,
leather/clothes, others, fishing gears
Compatible among indicators
Compatible among indicators
Compatible among indicators
Frequency
Every year
Every 1-3 years
Every 5-10 years
Inter calibration
Possible
Possible
Difficult
Research needed
Search for accumulation areas
32 | P a g e
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: SCUBA surveys for shallow seabed Plot Sampling
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied: 10.1.2
Tool code: 10.1.2_Seafloor T1
Tool description: The most commonly used method to estimate marine litter density in shallow coastal areas is to conduct
underwater visual surveys with SCUBA, although snorkeling or manta tow has also been applied for very shallow waters
(usually < 10 m depth). These surveys were mostly based on plot sampling and especially strip transects, where all items
can be counted and type or size may be recorded. In strip transects, the plots are long, narrow strips and the diver-observer
travels along the centerline searching marine litter and counting all items within the strip. The survey design comprises of k
randomly positioned strips or a grid of k systematically spaced strips randomly superimposed on the study area. The
average density of litter in the study area is estimated as
c
A
n
d
ˆ
, where n is the number of detected individuals, and Ac is
the surface area covered by the survey.
In plot sampling, the critical assumption is that all items present in the surveyed area Ac are detected. However, this
assumption cannot be tested using the survey data, and to ensure that it holds to a good approximation, it may be
necessary to use narrow strips, which is problematic for low litter densities and increases the variance of density
estimators. If the assumption that all items present in the surveyed areas are detected is not met, there is underestimation
of abundance.
Technical requirements: SCUBA equipment, trained observers.
Size range: > 2.5 cm
Spatial coverage:
Litter density
Conditions
Method
Sampling Unit (strips:
length x width)
>1 items/m2
Low turbidity - low habitat complexity
plot sampling
10 m x 2 m
>1 items/m2
all other cases
plot sampling
20 m x 1 m
0.1-1 items/m2
Low turbidity - low habitat complexity
plot sampling
20 m x 4 m
Depth 0-40 m
Survey frequency: Annually.
Maturity of the tool: In use.
Regional applicability of the tool: Very relevant in clear waters (e.g. Mediterranean), problematic in turbulent and turbid
waters, and in complex habitats (e.g. rocky reefs, seagrass beds).
Source related information: Categories are recorded and thus some limited source information can be inferred.
References:
Katsanevakis, S. and Katsarou, A. 2004. Influences on the distribution of marine litter on the seafloor of shallow coastal areas in Greece
(Eastern Mediterranean). Water, Air and Soil Pollution 159: 325337.
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MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: SCUBA surveys for shallow seabed Distance Sampling
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied: 10.1.2
Tool code: 10.1.2_Seafloor T2
Tool description: In plot sampling, the critical assumption is that all items present in the surveyed area Ac are
detected. However, this assumption cannot be tested using the survey data, and to ensure that it holds to a good
approximation, it may be necessary to use narrow strips, which is problematic for low litter densities and increases
the variance of density estimators. If the assumption that all items present in the surveyed areas are detected is not
met, there is underestimation of abundance. This is overcome by applying distance sampling, which is a group of
methods for estimating abundance and/or population density (Buckland et al., 2001). In distance sampling surveys, it
is acceptable that we fail to detect some of the items that are in the covered region, as detectability is actually
estimated and used to correct abundance estimations. The probability that any particular individual that is in the
covered region is detected, i.e., the ‘detection probability’, is denoted by pa, and the estimator of abundance becomes
ac pAn
d
ˆ
. The extra effort in a line transect survey is to record the perpendicular distance of each item from the
line. This set of distances is used to estimate detection probability pa (Buckland et al., 2001; Katsanevakis, 2009). The
most commonly used Distance Sampling method for underwater surveys is line transect sampling. The standard
software for modelling detectability and estimating density/abundance, based on distance sampling surveys, is
DISTANCE (Thomas et al., 2006).
In areas with high litter densities, clear water and low sea bottom complexity (e.g., sandy bottoms) narrow strip
transects may be preferred. In areas with low litter densities (where large sampling surfaces are needed to obtain a
sufficiently high number of records), turbid waters, and/or high sea bottom complexity (e.g. rocky reefs, sea grass
beds) imperfect detectability is an important issue and should not be ignored; line transects should be preferred and
detectability should be estimated. The filed protocols for line transect surveys of litter on the seabed are exactly the
same as those for benthic sessile fauna, described in detail in Katsanevakis (2009).
Technical requirements: SCUBA equipment, trained observers
Size range: > 2.5 cm
Spatial coverage:
Litter density
Conditions
Method
Sampling Unit (strips:
length x width)
0.1-1 items/m2
Low turbidity - high habitat complexity
distance sampling
20 m x 4 m
0.1-1 items/m2
high turbidity
distance sampling
20 m x 4 m
0.01-0.1 items/m2
for every case
distance sampling
100 m x 8 m
<0.01 items/m2
for every case
distance sampling
200 m x 8 m
Depth 0-40 m
Survey frequency: annually
Maturity of the tool: In use for benthic fauna
Regional applicability of the tool: It can be applied in every region.
Source related information: Categories are recorded and thus some limited source information can be inferred.
References:
Buckland, S.T., Anderson, D.R., Burnham, K.P., Laake, J.L., Borchers, D.L., Thomas, L. 2001. Introduction to distance sampling:
Estimating abundance of biological populations. Oxford University Press, New York. 448 pp.
Katsanevakis, S. 2009. Estimating abundance of endangered marine benthic species using Distance Sampling through SCUBA diving:
the Pinna nobilis (Mollusca: Bivalvia) example. In: Columbus AM, Kuznetsov L (eds) Endangered Species: New Research. Nova
Science Publishers, New York. pp. 81115.
Thomas, L., Laake, J.L., Rexstad, E., Strindberg, S., Marques, F.F.C., Buckland, S.T., Borchers, D.L., Anderson, D.R., Burnham, K.P.,
Burt, M.L., Hedley, S.L., Pollard, J.H., Bishop J.R.B. and Marques, T.A. 2006. Distance 6.0. Release Beta 3. Research Unit for
Wildlife Population Assessment, University of St. Andrews: St. Andrews, UK. http://www.ruwpa.st-and.ac.uk/distance/.
34 | P a g e
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Trawling surveys
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied: 10.1.2
Tool code: 10.1.2_Seafloor T3
Tool description: Surveys of macro-litter loads on the seabed have been conducted mainly using trawl surveys. This
method is the most adequate method to date, although quantities of litter are underestimated. It should be
considered as a method for estimating relative litter densities rather than absolute densities. A constant trawl mouth
width is required. General strategies to investigate seabed litter are similar to methodology for benthic ecology and
place more emphasis on the abundance and nature (e.g. bags, bottles, pieces of plastics) of items rather than their
mass. Just like stranded litter, litter on the seabed aggregates locally in response to local sources and bottom
topography.
Technical requirements: trawler [20 mm mesh size for otter trawls; 40 mm mesh size for beam trawls].
Size range: > 2 cm for otter trawls; > 4 cm for beam trawls.
Spatial coverage: Sample area size 1-5 ha, 20-800 m depth, fixed locations.
Survey frequency: Annually.
Maturity of the tool: In use.
Regional applicability of the tool: It can be applied in every region on soft bottoms.
Source related information: Categories are recorded, minimum7+1 categories [7 (plastic, paper & cardboard, glass,
ceramics, metal, leather/clothes, others) + 1 (fishing gears)]. Categories should be compatible with other surveys.
References:
Galgani F., Jaunet S., Campillo A., Guenegan X. & His E.,1995b. Distribution and abundance of debris on the continental shelf of the
North-western Mediterranean Sea.Mar. Pollut. Bull. 30, 713717. (doi:10.1016/0025-326X (95)00055-R)
Galgani F., Leaute J. P., Moguedet P., Souplet A., Verin Y., Carpentier A., Goraguer H., Latrouite D., Andral B., Cadiou Y., Mahe J. C.,
Poulard J. C., Nerisson P. (2000). Litter on the Sea Floor Along European Coasts. Marine Pollution Bulletin 40(6):516-527.
doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(99)00234-9).
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Submersibles (manned and unmanned)
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied: 10.1.2
Tool code: 10.1.2_Seafloor T4
Tool description: Only some areas/countries are concerned along the European coasts including Norwegian trench,
France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece. For evaluation of litter and monitoring, the use of trawl in deep-sea areas will
be restricted to flat and smooth bottoms. For slopes and rocky bottoms, special means are necessary including ROVs
and submersibles that are very expensive to operate. ROVs are simpler and largely cheaper and must be
recommended for litter surveys. There are some available protocols where litter is counted on routes. These routes
surveys must be in the km range and results are expressed as item/km).
Technical requirements: ROVs, submarines.
Size range: > 2.5 cm
Spatial coverage: Sample size 0.5-2 km routes/ dive, depths: 50-2500 m.
Survey frequency: On irregular basis, every 5-10 years.
Maturity of the tool: In use.
Regional applicability of the tool: Priority regions: Mediterranean (Spain, France, West and south east, Italy, Greece,
Cyprus), Portugal, UK (Partly), Norwegian trench. Priority sites: large cities, accumulation areas.
Source related information: Categories are recorded, minimum7+1 categories [7 (plastic, paper & cardboard, glass,
ceramics, metal, leather/clothes, others) + 1 (fishing gears)].
References:
Galgani, F., Souplet, A. and Cadiou, Y. 1996. Accumulation of debris on the deep sea floor off the French Mediterranean coast.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 142: 225234.
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5.3 Future needs and further development
To improve the monitoring of litter on the sea floor, the following recommendations were considered as important for
data collection and management, harmonization and trends evaluation and more generally for a better evaluation of GES:
5.3.1 Development needs and options within 2012
Shallow seafloor monitoring
Develop a monitoring strategy for shallow waters (sites, depths, priority areas). Diving surveys to monitor marine litter
are scarce in European waters and there is a need for further development of the monitoring. The concept of priority
areas is important and the issue of selection of sites and their representation will have to be discussed in developing a
strategy adapted to shallow coastal waters. Alternatives to diving methods will have to be evaluated. There is need to link
the strategy to ongoing seafloor habitat surveys and to investigate possible contribution by NGO initiatives (e.g. Project
AWARE, http://www.projectaware.org/project/dive-against-debris).
Bottom trawl surveys
Available program in OSPAR/HELCOM/MEDPOL/BSC areas covering all shelves on regular basis (annually). Rationalize,
implement, improve the existing IBTS, BITS and MEDITS (including BSC) marine litter protocols and extend them to other
regions covered by these programs, will enable a coverage of most European seafloor areas between 40 m and 800 m.
Monitoring of Litter through seafloor trawls must be co-organized and coordinated within the two groups ICES/IBTS
covering NE Atlantic and Baltic Sea and MEDITS covering Mediterranean and Black Sea. Inclusion of litter monitoring
through IBTS/MEDITS programs will need to be organized within the EU through STEFC (Scientific, Technical and
Economic Committee for Fisheries) and its Subgroup Research Needs (SGRN) with the support of the Data Center
Framework (DCF) from DG MARE (Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries). The development of a central
database for European trawl survey data (DATRAS) may be used for collection of trawl survey data preceding a more
specific litter data management system.
Seafloor litter reporting categories
Following recommendations from OSPAR, UNEP/IOC, ICES/WKMAL and the TSG ML discussions, it is the opinion of the
group that for classification of marine litter in general, an hierarchical approach should be developed and used. Very
general categories should split up into more detailed identification, where possible. For sea floor surveys categories are
including: plastic, paper and cardboard, wood (processed), metal, glass and ceramics, cloth (textile), rubber, others. This
system should be compatible across the different survey types, see: Chapter 8.5, Availability of source identification
methods. The same approach should be applied in all European areas.
5.3.2 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond
Long term improvement of sea floor monitoring is related to research needs and should include the development of
innovative methods (e.g. imaging or sonar detection), semi automation and rationalisation of monitoring.
Monitoring of deep sea is actually on irregular basis because it is very expensive. Therefore very specific deep-sea areas
where no trawling exists and which are especially affected by litter should be prioritized (Norwegian trench, Cap Breton
canyon, canyon of Lisbon, large towns in the Mediterranean and deeps subjected to inputs).
6. Impacts of Litter on Marine Life
Marine organisms may be impacted by litter in various ways. At least 43 % of existing cetacean species, all species of
marine turtles, approximately 36 % of the world’s seabird species, and many species of fish have been reported to ingest
marine litter (Katsanevakis, 2008). Ingestion of marine litter may occur either because of misidentification of litter items
as natural prey, as shells from sepia for calcium carbonate supply, or accidentally during feeding and normal behaviour
(Gregory, 2009). Serious effects of ingested litter are the blockage of the digestive tract and internal injuries by sharp
objects, which may be a cause of mortality. Other harmful effects include the blockage of gastric enzyme production,
diminished feeding stimulus, nutrient dilution, reduced growth rates, lowered steroid hormone levels, delayed ovulation
and reproductive failure, and absorption of toxins (Azzarello and Van-Vleet, 1987; Ryan, 1988; Van Franeker and Bell,
1988; Sievert and Sileo, 1993; Auman et al., 1997; McCauley and Bjorndal, 1999; Derraik, 2002; Thompson et al., 2009,
Teuten et al., 2007; Teuten et al., 2009). Entanglement in marine litter has been reported for numerous species
(Katsanevakis, 2008) and can cause limited mobility and restricted movement (leading to starvation), suffocation,
laceration, subsequent infection, and possible mortality in marine life (Honolulu Strategy, draft 2011)
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According to the 1998 U.S. Marine Mammal Commission´s last published report in 1999, 136 marine species have been
reported in entanglement incidents, including six of the seven species of sea turtle, 51 out of the world´s 312 species of
seabirds, and 32 species of marine mammals. Of the 120 marine mammals species listed on the IUCN list, 54 (45 %) were
reported to have interacted (ingestion and/or entanglement) with marine litter.
With accounting for around one tenth of the entire litter in the world`s oceans (Cheshire et al., 2009) derelict or discarded
fishing gear ranks as the most problematic marine litter. These estimated 640000 tons of fishing gear lost, abandoned or
discarded annually may continue to fish for years and even decades (a process referred to as ‘ghost’ fishing). While the
impact of lost fishing gear in shallow waters are better known and documented, impacts on deep water environments
have also been observed (McElwee et al., 2011 in press). For example the decline of deep water sharks in North Atlantic
has been linked to ghost fishing in the North Atlantic (Hareide et al., 2005, Large et al., 2009). Please see Annex 4 for an
overview of the issue.
Other known impacts of marine litter include alteration, damage and degradation of benthic habitats and communities
(Katsanevakis et al., 2007) such as coral reef abrasion from derelict fishing gear or smothering from plastic bags. Litter can
disrupt the assemblages of organisms living on or in the sediment (Uneputty and Evans 1997; Donohue et al., 2001,
Chiappone et al., 2002). Marine litter items can assist in alien species invasions (Winston, 1982; Barnes, 2002; Barnes and
Milner, 2005). Chemicals incorporated in, or attracted to plastics floating in seawater have a broad range of potentially
toxic, carcinogenic and hormone disturbing effects (Thompson et al., 2009). Evidence from passive samplers indicate
associated release and sorbance of chemicals on polymers, thus plastics and micro-plastics have a potential to possibly
cause long term effects as they may act as a vector for transferring toxic chemicals to the food chain.
Evidence from passive samplers indicate associated release and sorbance of chemicals on polymers, thus plastics and
micro-plastics have a potential to possibly cause long term effects as they may act as a vector for transferring toxic
chemicals to the food chain.
In the Commission Decision (2010/477/EU), the impacts of litter on marine life are addressed with indicator 10.2.1
“Trends in the amount and composition of litter ingested by marine animals”. Although the indicator is based on
assessing trends in ingested litter, the Commission Decision (2010/477/EU) also requests for the improvement of
knowledge concerning the impacts of litter on marine life in general.
6.1 Availability of data
In the EU, monitoring programs focusing on the trends of ingested marine litter or on its impacts have been scarce. The
most comprehensive data set available is that on northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis). Northern fulmar monitoring has
been conducted in the Dutch North Sea since the early 1980s, and since around 2002 in the German North Sea, Danish
Skagerrak area, Norwegian North Sea/Skagerrak area, Swedish west coast, Belgian North Sea / Channel, UK North Sea and
around Faroe Islands. Fairly isolated data are available on ingested litter in other seabird species, cetacean, seals, sea
turtles, plankton, crustacean and fish. Formal programs and methodologies are not in place or only poorly developed and
suitable numbers of individuals are not collected making it hard to draw robust conclusions. Entanglements have been
studied from beached seabirds in only very few places, mostly in the German and Dutch North Sea coasts (Camphuysen,
2008). The most representative data set with regards to seabird entanglement rate originates from Germany, where this
has been monitored in approximately 30 sites from the beginning of the 1990s (Fleet et al., 2010).
6.2 Availability of methods
In general, the following characteristics in an indicator species to be used to assess trends in the amount and composition
of ingested marine litter can be identified:
an abundant species;
easily attainable (e.g. via Beached Bird Surveys);
foraging exclusively at sea;
a species known to have a sufficiently high incidence of ingested litter to monitor change even in times or
areas of lower pollution.
Currently the only mature methodology for indicator 10.2.1 is the OSPAR Ecological Quality Objective (EcoQO) for litter
particles in stomachs of northern fulmars. It is used to assess temporal trends, regional differences and compliance with a
set target for acceptable ecological quality. For each litter category/subcategory the incidence, abundance by number,
and abundance by mass is assessed. Trend assessment is based on statistical tests of linear regressions of ln-transformed
data for the mass of plastics against year of collection in individual stomachs.
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The methodology has been developed for the North Sea but it is applicable to most of the North East Atlantic. It is
however not directly applicable to the Baltic, Mediterranean, Black Sea, and southern parts of the North East Atlantic,
which are outside of the range of northern fulmars. The methodology itself is directly comparable on studies in ingestion
in other seabird species.
EcoQO monitoring trials in the south eastern North Atlantic and western Mediterranean (Azores; Canary Islands;
Selvagens; Spain Mediterranean; Malta Sea) have been carried out with Cory’s Shearwater. This species doesn’t offer full
coverage of the Mediterranean and does not occur in the Baltic or the Black Sea. Methodologies will have to be adapted
and fine-tuned to fit other potential indicator groups such as marine turtles.
Sea turtles are considered as a candidate to act as an ingestion indicator in the Mediterranean and nearby Atlantic areas,
not however being suitable for the Black Sea or Baltic Sea regions, as their distribution does not cover these seas. On the
basis of latest scientific studies, the loggerhead Caretta caretta seems to be the best indicator for the Mediterranean Sea,
although more information on this topic must be collected. Several litter such as plastic, fish hooks, rubber, aluminum
foil, tar, ropes and monofilament line have been found in its stomach contents (Tomàs et al., 2002, Lazar and Gracăn,
2011) and in its faeces (Casale et al., 2008, Armanasco et al., 2010).
6.3 Tool sheet development
Altogether three monitoring tools are presented for the monitoring of ingested litter:
The fulmar tool is classified as mature and the shearwater tool close to mature. The sea turtle tool is classified as under
development indicating that enough information exists for the group to be able to suggest a monitoring approach for this
species.
Additionally, the group has identified three other animal groups that could be suitable for ingested litter monitoring, but
which require significant further development in order to be applied as tools for indicator 10.2.: fishes, seals, and
crustaceans. These are presented and discussed in the following section 6.4.
Fulmar (10.2.1_T1)
Shearwater (10.2.1_T2)
Sea turtle (10.2.1_T3)
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MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Fulmar
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied for: 10.2.1
Tool code: 10.2.1_T1
Tool description: The methodology of this tool is the OSPAR Ecological Quality Objective (EcoQO) for litter particles in
stomachs of northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis). The stomach contents of beached northern fulmars are used to
measure trends in marine litter.
Technical requirements: The technical requirements are described in detail in documents related to the fulmar
EcoQO methodology: Van Franeker & Meijboom (2002), OSPAR (2008), Van Franeker et al. (2011a, 2011b). For each
litter category/subcategory the (1) incidence; (2) abundance by number (count of number of items), and (3)
abundance by mass (weight in grams) is assessed. Trend assessment is based on statistical tests of linear regressions
of ln-transformed data for the mass of plastics against year of collection in individual stomachs.
Size range: >= 1 mm (stomach contents are rinsed over 1 mm mesh sieve)
Spatial coverage: Dead birds are collected from beaches (for methodology see Van Franeker 2004).
Survey frequency: Continuous sampling. A sample size of 40 birds or more is recommended for a reliable annual
average for a particular area. However, also years of low sample size can be used in the analysis of trends as these are
based on individual birds and not on annual averages. For reliable conclusions on change or stability in ingested litter
quantities, data over periods of 4 to 8 years (depending on the category of litter) is needed.
Maturity of the tool: Mature and in use.
Regional applicability of the tool: The tool is applicable to the MSFD marine regions where fulmars occur; the Greater
North Sea, the English Channel, and the Celtic Seas.
Quality assurance / quality control: The methodology referred to in this report is based on an agreed OSPAR
methodology which has been developed over a number of years.
Source related information: In this tool the following categories are used:
1 Plastics
1.1 Industrial plastic pellets
1.2 User plastics
1.2.1 sheetlike user plastics
1.2.2 threadlike user plastics
1.2.3 foamed user plastics
1.2.4 fragments
1.2.5 other (including e.g. cigarette filters)
2 Rubbish other than plastic
2.1 Paper; incl. multi-layer laminates that are dominated by paper as in tetrapacks, and foils of aluminium-like
materials
2.2 Kitchen food
2.3 Various rubbish (incl. manufactured wood, paint chips, metal, glass, etc.)
2.4 Fish hook
Further optional categories of stomach contents
3 Pollutants
3.1 slag/coal
3.2 oil/tar
3.3 paraffine/ chemical
3.4 feather lump (of oil or chemical fouled feathers)
4 Natural food remains
5 Natural non-food remains
The tests on significance of trends are suggested to be carried out for “total plastics”, “industrial plastics” and “user
plastics”.
References
OSPAR Commission. 2008. Background document for the EcoQO on plastic particles in stomachs of seabirds.
van Franeker, J.A. & Meijboom, A. 2002. Litter NSV - Marine litter monitoring by Northern Fulmars: a pilot study. ALTERRA-Rapport
401. Alterra, Wageningen, 72pp.
van Franeker, J.A., et al. 2011a. Monitoring plastic ingestion by the northern fulmar Fulmarus glacialis in the North Sea,
Environmental Pollution (2011), doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2011.06.008
van Franeker, J.A.; & the SNS Fulmar Study Group. 2011b. Fulmar Litter EcoQO monitoring along Dutch and North Sea coasts in
relation to EU Directive 2000/59/EC on Port Reception Facilities: results to 2009. IMARES Report C037/11 (in prep).
39 | P a g e
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Shearwater
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied for: 10.2.1
Tool code: 10.2.1_T2
Tool description: The methodology of this tool is basically the same as the OSPAR Ecological Quality Objective
(EcoQO) for litter particles in stomachs of northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis). The stomach contents of beached or
otherwise found dead individuals of Kühls Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea / scopoli) are used to measure trends in
marine litter. Potentially other shearwater species (Puffinus spp.) may be considered.
Technical requirements: The technical requirements are described in detail in documents related to the fulmar
EcoQO methodology: Van Franeker & Meijboom (2002), OSPAR (2008), Van Franeker et al. (2011a, 2011b). For each
litter category/subcategory the (1) incidence; (2) abundance by number (count of number of items), and (3)
abundance by mass (weight in grams) is assessed. Trend assessment is based on statistical tests of linear regressions
of ln-transformed data for the mass of plastics against year of collection in individual stomachs.
Size range: >=1 mm (stomach contents are rinsed over 1 mm mesh sieve)
Spatial coverage: Dead birds are collected from beaches (for methodology see Van Franeker 2004) or from any land
or sea based location. Trial studies at the moment use a mix of longline victims of chicks that died during fledging, and
of corpses found in/near colonies. Fledged chicks would be the best sample type, but is probably not possible in many
locations.
Trial studies are being conducted using birds from Azores, Canaries, Selvagens and western Mediterranean. In
principle, the species occurs in the southern part of the Atlantic OSPAR area and in the Mediterranean. But although
the species is reasonably common in the Mediterranean, suitable sampling locations seem hard to find.
Survey frequency: Continuous sampling. It is not yet known whether a sample size of about 40 birds, would be
suitable in this species for assessing a reliable annual average for a particular area. However, also years of low sample
size can be used in the analysis of trends as these are based on individual birds and not on annual averages.
Maturity of the tool: Method itself is mature, but feasibility of establishing a proper sampling network is in trial
phase, not mature.
Regional applicability of the tool: The tool is applicable to the MSFD marine regions where shearwaters occur;
southeastern North Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Quality assurance / quality control: The methodology referred to in this report is based on an agreed OSPAR
methodology. Application to shearwaters is tested in particular on the Azores for several years, but data still have to
analysed and results evaluated, which has been developed over a number of years.
Source related information: Please see the fulmar tool (10.2.1_T1) for the categories to be used.
References
OSPAR Commission. 2008. Background document for the EcoQO on plastic particles in stomachs of seabirds.
van Franeker, J.A. & Meijboom, A. 2002. Litter NSV - Marine litter monitoring by Northern Fulmars: a pilot study. ALTERRA-Rapport
401. Alterra, Wageningen, 72pp.
van Franeker, J.A., et al. 2011a. Monitoring plastic ingestion by the northern fulmar Fulmarus glacialis in the North Sea,
Environmental Pollution, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2011.06.008.
van Franeker, J.A.; & the SNS Fulmar Study Group. 2011b. Fulmar Litter EcoQO monitoring along Dutch and North Sea coasts in
relation to EU Directive 2000/59/EC on Port Reception Facilities: results to 2009. IMARES Report C037/11 (In prep).
40 | P a g e
6.4 Future needs and further development
6.4.1 Ingested litter
For MS to be able to evaluate the status of their marine regions with regard to litter, the most urgent need is to develop
an integrated set of monitoring tools for ingested litter that covers all the four regional seas. Currently such tools cannot
yet be recommended for the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea due to the lack of data on potential indicator species in these
areas that would have adequate amounts of litter in their stomachs. It is pivotal that MS establish pilot studies for
MSFD Marine Litter Monitoring TOOL SHEET
Tool name: Sea turtle
Indicator for which the tool is to be applied for: 10.2.1
Tool code: 10.2.1_T3
Tool description: The gastrointestinal tract contents of dead sea turtles, loggerhead (Caretta caretta) are used to
measure trends in marine litter. The animal should be collected once stranded on the beach or straight from the sea,
as accidental bycatch collected by fisherman, coast guard, or NGO volunteers. Carcasses should be labelled with
information on location, date, finder’s personal details, and any possible relevant information. After that first step the
animal or sample should be frozen in a plastic bag and transported to an authorized laboratory for dissection (if only
the stomach and gut are collected, data should be added with a necropsy form). The gastrointestinal tract is best
divided into esophagus, stomach and intestine using particular attention to not mix contents. These components must
be opened, after which the contents are rinsed with cold water in a sieve 1mm mesh to remove smaller organic
material. Fecal pellet analysis is another possibility to collect litter in sea turtles but the methodology is under
development.
Technical requirements: All items are sorted using the categorization as in Fulmar protocol analysis. For each
category of plastics (industrial pellet or user plastic), rubbish (other than plastic), pollutant (industrial or chemical
waste remain) or natural non-food remain, in the different parts of the gastrointestinal tract, incidence
(presence/absence), abundance by number (count of number of items), and abundance by mass (weight of air-dry
material) are recorded. Further details are possible, for example recording colours (number of items with the same
colour). Different items found could be photographed above a graph paper foil.
Size range: >=1 mm (stomach contents are rinsed over 1 mm mesh sieve)
Spatial coverage: Dead turtles are collected from beaches or straight from the sea
Survey frequency: Continuous sampling, but it could be possible to have samples only during spring and summer
period, in particular from May to October.
Maturity of the tool: Under development.
Regional applicability of the tool: The tool is applicable to the MSFD marine regions where sea turtles occur; the
Mediterranean Sea.
Quality assurance / quality control: Under development.
Source related information: Please see the fulmar tool (10.2.1_T1) for the categories to be used.
References:
Armanasco, A., Botteon, E., Nannarelli, S. and Savini, D. 2010. Fecal pellet analysis of Caretta Caretta out patients of
the Linosa island turtle rescue center (Sicily, AD) 41°Congressodella Società Italiana di Biologia Marina, Rapallo 7-
11 Giugno 2010.
Casale P., Abbate G., Freggi D., Conte N., Oliverio M., Argano R., 2008. Foraging ecology of loggerhead sea turtles
Caretta caretta in the central Mediterranean Sea: evidence for a relaxed life history model. Marine Ecology
Progress Series 372:265276.
Lazar, B. and Gračan, R. 2011. Ingestion of marine debris by loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, in the Adriatic
Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62:4347.
Tomás, J., Guitart, R., Mateo, R. and Raga, J.A. 2002. Marine debris ingestion in loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta
caretta, from the Western Mediterranean. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44:211216.
Van Franeker, J.A.; & the SNS Fulmar Study Group 2011. Fulmar Litter EcoQO monitoring along Dutch and North Sea
coasts in relation to EU Directive 2000/59/EC on Port Reception Facilities: results to 2009.. IMARES Report
C037/11 (in prep).
41 | P a g e
monitoring programs that provide information that supports the further development of tools for assessing trends in
ingested litter. This is also the only plausible way to assess whether or not ingested marine litter is causing harm to biota.
Importantly, the comparability of trend results obtained from the indicator species’ in the different marine regions must
be ensured. As no single indicator species can cover all European waters, the selected indicator species should ideally
have some spatial and/or ecological overlap with those from bordering areas. Consideration should be given to using
different trophic levels. For example, it could be that ecologically similar fish species in all waters with a low frequency of
plastic ingestion can be used for a rough general comparison of pollution levels in different regional seas, but that the
monitoring of spatial-temporal trends within regional seas requires other species.
In addition to the animal groups for which ingestion tool sheets have been prepared, we propose three animal groups,
which we regard to have potential for ingested litter monitoring in the future, particularly in the Baltic and the Black sea.
Additionally, as an essential parallel activity to developing the monitoring of ingested litter, we highlight the importance
and need of separate experimental studies for the assessment of harm/impacts of litter on marine organisms.
Fish
To evaluate the applicability of fish for ingested litter monitoring, studies surveying the occurrence of litter in fish in the
different marine regions is needed. The group encourages MS to assess the applicability of already ongoing fisheries
analysis in their country also for litter monitoring purposes and/or the establishment of small-scale research projects
focusing solely on this issue. Ultimately MS should aim at a dedicated program for analysis of litter ingested by fish, based
on harmonised methods. Species, which fulfill the requirements identified in section 6.2., such as sand eel, sprat, herring,
and sardines, should be considered. Preliminary results of European surveys on litter ingested by fish have not shown
clear candidate species so far, as incidence levels even in polluted areas have often found to be low. The standard
fisheries stomach research (which may miss smaller particles) very rarely shows ingested litter, with incidence usually far
below 1 %. This was observed even in species suspected to easily pick up litter like the Mackerel (Scomber scombrus)
(Foekema et al., 2011; Lopez-Lopez 2011, unpublished reports). Dedicated studies around the North Sea that included
very careful inspections for small particles occasionally showed somewhat higher incidences up to c. 10% in some species
in polluted areas (Foekema et al., 2011; unpublished reports). Such levels are not very suitable for monitoring within
regions, but could be useful as a general comparison between the four European seas. Further work on fish is certainly
required and should include other species and also different life stages of fishes. Possibly ingestion of small litter is more
common in juvenile fishes, which may be of high relevance to the issue of harm as well as potential economic impact.
Studies in the northern Pacific (Boerger et al., 2010, Davison and Asch, 2011) and in the Southern Ocean (Eriksson and
Burton, 2003) suggest that myctophid fish species (“lanternfishes”) may have high incidences of ingested plastics. These
species are not commonly captured and have not yet been included in European surveys but should be looked at as soon
as possible.
In conclusion it seems that many fish in the European areas are not very suitable as ingestion indicators, but available
information is fragmentary and much more dedicated work is urgently needed.
Seals and whales
In Germany, the occurrence of ingested litter in marine mammals (Pinnipedia and Cetacea) has been studied by the
former Research and Technology Centre (FTZ West coast, now Institute of Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research)
following the protocols developed for marine top predators (Pierce and Boyle, 1991). During the examination of
defrosted stomachs, intact or partially digested food items are identified and measured. Remaining stomach contents are
separated using a series of sieves with mesh sizes of 0.5-2 mm. Another method which is applied e.g. in Sweden, is to
flush stomachs and intestines of hunted and beached seals with water and pass the contents through strainers. The
smallest sieves used in this method have a mesh size of 0.5 mm.
In Sweden, the digestive track of Grey seals, Harbour seals and Ringed seals are analysed annually by the Swedish
Museum of Natural History in a diet project taking also note of litter. Over the years, several hundred Baltic grey seals and
approximately a hundred Ringed and Harbour seals have been analysed, but the occurrence of ingested litter has been
negligible. At the FTZ West coast in Germany, only one harbour seal out of 24 contained litter in its stomach. A study of
over 100 stomachs of seals that died in the Netherlands during the 2002 virus disease showed about 12 % incidence of
litter (van Franeker, unpublished), but this was a special situation and without further work, it is not known if stomach
contents reflect a normal pattern. Extensive studies of seal faeces from the Dutch Waddensea have not shown litter to be
present (unlike e.g. Eriksson and Burton, 2003). Reportedly, stomachs of seals from the Icelandic area only very rarely
show marine litter.
An exception to the above findings are the results obtained by Eriksson and Burton (2003), where they found plastics
remains in about 85 % of the scats in the Southern Ocean Fur Seals. The authors suggested that plastic remains were not
consumed by seals directly but instead were ingested by pelagic fish that were consumed by the seals. Maybe the fish
species consumed by Baltic seals are not very prone to ingest plastic, but this needs to be verified.
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Beaching numbers in some toothed whales (Odontoceti) could be high enough to evaluate potential suitability for
indicating trends. However, the species known to be more prone to ingestion like Cuvier´s beaked whales (Macleoad,
2009) and Sperm Whales (Jacobsen et al., 2010) are rare on European coasts. Out of 47 analysed harbour porpoises from
1998-2006 by the FTZ West coast (according to the protocol mentioned above) two animals had plastic and nylon in their
stomachs. Regular studies of stomach contents of Harbour porpoises from the Netherlands (e.g. 64 animals in Leopold
and Camphuysen 2006) only very rarely show ingested marine litter.
Plastic accumulates in Risso`s dolphin habitat in the Mediterranean (Aliani et al., 2003). Of the 100 Risso´s dolphins
stranded or rescued along the coasts of Italy between 1986 and 2005, one reportedly had many plastic bags and a ping-
pong ball in its stomach and the stomach and oesophagus of another were occluded by plastic bags (Bearzi et al., 2011).
Of the 59 Risso´s dolphins stranded in France between 1072 and 2003 (including along the Atlantic coast), 2 had ingested
plastic bags (Dhermain, 2004). Those proportions do not reflect actual rates of ingestion because only a minority of
stranded animals were dissected.
In conclusion, it seems that for marine mammals either the known incidence of ingested plastic is too low to use this
group for ingestion monitoring, or it concerns species that occur in too low frequencies to be used in a monitoring
system. Studies of litter in stomach contents of marine mammals are certainly recommended, also from the viewpoint of
knowledge of harm, but not as a monitoring tool.
Crustaceans (Norwegian Lobster or similar)
Crustaceans are widely distributed animals, and should be surveyed for their potential to act as indicators in all the MSFD
marine regions. However the occurrence of litter in crustaceans has yet received little attention. Plastic contamination
has been found to be high in the crustacean Nephrops norvegicus in the Clyde Sea, where 83 % of the animals sampled
contained plastics (predominantly filaments) in their stomach. Tightly tangled balls of plastic strands were found in 62 %
of the animals studied but were less prevalent in animals which had recently moulted (Murray and Cowie 2011).
Variations in litter accumulations related to age or moulting stage of crustaceans could complicate their use for
monitoring and further studies in this and other crustacean species need to verify these findings.
6.4.2 Entanglement
The entanglement of marine species in marine litter has been frequently described as a serious mortality factor.
Long-term observations on the German North Sea island Helgoland from 1976-1985 suggested that 29 % of the observed
mortality of beached gannets could be caused by plastic-litter and fishing gear; the actual entanglement rate among
beached birds was 13% (Schrey and Vauk, 1987). A study conducted on the British island Grassholm, Wales, where
approximately 40000 pairs of gannets breed, accounted for 470 g plastic on average in each nest, equating to an
estimated colony total of 18.5 tonnes. A total of 525 individuals were found entangled over eight years (1996-1997 and
2005-2010), the majority of which were nestlings (Votier et al., 2011).
Fifteen species of sea- and water birds were recorded as victims of entanglement with litter on the German North Sea
coast in the 1980s. The most common victim was the Gannet, with 20 % of all corpses of this species found to be
entangled (Hartwig et al., 1985, 1992). An increase in entangled dead beached seabirds from 0.23 ± 0.11% for the years
1992-2003 to 0.35 ± 0.06 % for the years 2004-2007 was reported for Dutch beaches (Camphuysen, 2008). Up to 6.5 % of
Gannets beached in the Netherlands shows entanglement (Camphuysen, 2008). The values for sea- and water birds
beached on the German North Sea coast in the period 1992-2007 and included in the German North Sea beached bird
database are 0,26 ± 0,11 % entangled (n entangled = 230; n total = 87074). As in the Netherlands, the Gannet remains the
species most frequently found entangled on German North Sea coasts and 12 % of all gannets recorded are entangled
(Wadden Sea Ecosystem No. 25, 2009).
In conclusion, it seems that entanglement rates among beached birds, except for gannet, are often too low for monitoring
purposes of marine litter. Wherever beached birds surveys are carried out protocols should include the aspect of
entanglement to monitor trends in entanglement rates especially of Gannets. In addition, entanglement rate may provide
a useful tool to be used for the assessment of harm in breeding bird colonies, such as gannets, kittiwakes, and cormorants
(Votier et al., 2010). In the case of the kittiwakes colony in the so-called “Jammerbucht” in North-West-Denmark studies
were carried out quantifying the percentage of nests containing plastic litter being used as nesting material. In 1992, 39 %
of the 466 nests in that season contained plastic, whereas in 2005, 57 % out of 311 nests contained plastic (Heckroth and
Hartwig, 2005). This is an issue to be considered.
Entanglement rates of marine mammals are probably high, but are extremely complicated to assess as found in the
detailed study of death causes for harbour porpoises by Leopold and Camphuysen (2006). In most cases, no proper
protocol has yet been developed. Additionally, in beached animals, usually entanglement in marine litter cannot be
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distinguished from entanglement in active fishing gear. As for the beached birds, protocols should always include a
section for entanglement in order to assess harm.
6.4.3 Development needs and options within 2012
The group identifies that as a priority and feasible goal for 2012, a common protocol for the monitoring of ingested litter
in fish needs to be developed. This is not an uncomplicated task, as the size of items to be looked at has to be specified,
as well as which species should be considered. Currently recording of litter of stomachs in standard fisheries research
does not allow for the identification of microlitter, which may be causing harm to the fish, and hence the techniques is
not useful for the purposes of assessing GES. Additionally a protocol for a harmonised assessment of entanglement rate in
breeding bird colonies needs to be developed, taking into account the number of birds attending a certain breeding
colony and the number of birds dying from entanglement.
6.4.4 Development needs and options until 2016 and beyond
To a great extent, the long term development needs for the assessment of the impacts of litter on biota, depend on the
effectiveness with which MS begin to implement the proposed monitoring tools and to provide information on the
occurrence of litter in biota. The interaction of chemical pollutants related to marine litter in the aquatic food chains
needs further attention. The implementation of further research aspects concerning both monitoring and assessment of
harm are of key importance, in which harm from ingestion should cover both physical and chemical consequences.
Derelict fishing gear deserves particular attention and the need for activity collecting information on the current state
considering all involved stakeholders under the WG GES should be considered. The aim would be to exchange information
at EU level and enable thus for a common approach under the MSFD.
Once MS have begun to implement these methods, the results have to <