The millions of tons of waste that find their way into the sea each year constitute a significant threat not only to the marine environment but also to the economic viability of local communities.
In the particular case of sea turtles, there is an increasing body of evidence that points to their ingestion of drifting waste, specifically plastics, either because the waste items are mixed with food items or because they look like something edible. The ingestion of small pieces of plastic waste can block a sea turtle’s digestive tract, cause it infections, reduce its fertility or restrict its movement, making it more vulnerable. Some of these effects can on their own be enough to cause a turtle’s death; in combination, a fatal outcome is almost inevitable.
The issue of marine pollution knows no boundaries and, as neighbours in the Mediterranean – essentially a closed basin – all nation states need to work together to address it. Until recently, a wide variety of approaches and techniques have been used to monitor and assess its consequences. In order to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the mitigation actions taken by the Mediterranean states of the EU, four of them, namely Greece, Italy, France and Spain, are to cooperate in a project entitled MEDSEALITTER that aims to produce a joint protocol for the monitoring of marine pollution together with improvements in the management and interconnectedness of protected areas.
To deliver the objectives of the MEDSEALITTER programme, MEDASSET will be working with the Greek Centre for Marine Research and nine further partner organisations: the University of Barcelona and the University of Valencia (Spain); the EcoOcean Institute and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (France); and finally from Italy the Cinque Terre National Park and Marine Protected Area (acting as Lead Partner), the Comune di Villasimius – Capo Carbonara Marine Protected Area, the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Legambiente Onlus and Municipality of Favignana – Managing Body of Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area.
The programme will include the monitoring and recording of floating debris, which will be carried out using boats, light aircraft and drones. It will also examine, under laboratory conditions, the concentration of pollutants that may be present in indicator species – such as sea turtles, fish and marine annelids.
MEDASSET will be contributing to the review of existing methods of monitoring marine pollution, participating in the collection of dead turtles found in Greece, and the sending of tissue samples for analysis by the specialised laboratories of the Greek Centre for Marine Research. Analysis of the substances ingested by the turtles will be used to assess the methods and techniques that are in use to monitor pollution in the marine environment. They will contribute to the creation of a practical, jointly agreed protocol that will facilitate the management of the natural environment by the responsible authorities of each country.
In addition, MEDASSET will, among other things, be responsible for the communication of the programme within Greece, and the awareness-raising and educational events of all the partner organisations, with particular emphasis on protected areas.
The umbrella programme, “MED”, of which MEDSEALITTER is a part, is a trans-national, EU Programme of European Regional Cooperation, which builds on the tradition of European Cooperation Programmes known as “INTERREG”. MEDSEALITTER will be 85% funded by the EU while the remaining 15% will come from national funds. It will run for 3 years.
Click on the link below to visit the MEDSEALITTER official Website