The Message from Berlin, the main outcome of a three day international conference, lays out the key principles and priority actions to tackle the European marine litter problem and calls for the development of regional action plans.

The Message from Berlin, the main outcome of a three day international conference, lays out the key principles and priority actions to tackle the European marine litter problem and calls for the development of regional action plans.

Priorities include addressing the various waste streams at their source (on average 80% of marine litter is from land based sources) as well as a shift to a resource efficient green economy and improving scientific understanding. The Message includes the development of ambitious targets to reduce marine litter at all relevant levels, giving priority to sources of marine litter with the strongest impact, such as microbeads or plastic bags.

The conference instilled a strong sense of urgency, with scientists, NGOs and policy makers presenting wide ranging evidence of the magnitude of the marine litter problem and its impacts on nature and the economy. ‘Let’s free our oceans from this plague’ said EU Commissioner Janez Potočnik.

At the conference, the Commission presented the preliminary results of its review of the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive at the national level. This revealed that none of the EU countries have set quantitative reduction targets for marine litter. Countries blamed a lack of knowledge and baseline data for their choice of qualitative targets.

Dr Monica Verbeek, Executive Director at Seas At Risk, made a strong plea for a 50% reduction of marine litter by 2020 - by ending waste at the source - and called for an end to the marine litter problem in a generation’s time, i.e. by 2035. She said: ‘Weak targets will lead to weak action. Concrete and quantified targets are crucial for tracking progress, holding policy makers accountable and to communicate with the general public.’

Seas At Risk also called for the application of the precautionary principle; gaps in data and knowledge should not be used as an argument for delaying preventive action.

At the press conference following the conference, SAR’s German member BUND handed over a joint NGO Marine Litter Manifesto to the Commissioner and Irish and German Ministers.
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