MARELITT projects, Baltic

WWF Poland, The municipality of Simrishamn, Keep the Estonian Sea Tidy and WWF Germany decided to team up to set up the first regional project aimed at reducing the impact of derelict fishing gears on the Baltic environment. 

Project summary

Participants:  WWF Poland (lead), Simrishamn Municipality, Keep the Estonian Sea Tidy, WWF Germany, regional/local governments, waste management companies, port authorities

Location: Poland (eastern part of Baltic); Sweden (western part of the Baltic); Estonia (eight areas in Estonian waters)

Fishing ports involved: Kolobrzeg, Ustka and Hel (Poland); Simrishamn, Sölvesborg and Ystad (Sweden); Toila; Viinistu; Leppneeme; Nõva; Orjaku; Liu-Lindi; and Häädemeeste (Estonia)

Project objectives: Retrieve DFG from selected areas and shipwrecks;Increase the understanding of the DFG problems and impacts; promote environmentally sound management of the retrieved DFG; Raise awareness on DFG and disseminate prevention and mitigation measures

Project activities: retrieval of fishing gears at sea by professional fishermen during purposed trips; retrieval of gears from wrecks by divers; promotion of prevention measures; identification of recycling solutions; monitoring; awareness raising.


Very early in the project, it became clear that a regional approach would be the most effective.

The problem of DFG is a regional problem, as drifting of fishing gear is transboundary and fishermen are active in the whole Baltic Sea. At the MARELITT Brussels workshop, Baltic organisations felt that adopting a regional approach was the best way to achieve the objectives of the project and do better than past national retrieval projects. So during the workshop, WWF Poland, Keep the Estonian Sea Tidy and the Municipality of Simrishamn decided to set up a common project. A regional project will also be complementary to common actions on marine litter and DFG problems in structures such as Helcom. A medium-term objective is to include organisations from other Baltic countries in the project. WWF Germany is the first organisation to join the original consortium in December 2014. 

Containers with retrieved nets

Containers with retrieved nets (Sweden) by Mats Nilsson

MARELITT Baltic will look at all aspects of the DFG problem: prevention, mitigation, retrieval and recycling 

Retrieval efforts are only credible if they are combined with efforts to prevent the occurrence of DFG, to register losses and to mitigate the impacts of DFG. This is why MARELITT Baltic will identify and promote the implementation of prevention and mitigation actions, including a wide range of measures - such as increasing reporting of lost gears, encouraging the return of DFG to manufacturers for recycling, providing appropriate waste reception facilities in ports for DFG, awareness raising, or developing gear marking. Project partners will also aim at finding recylcing solutions for the retrieved gears.

WWF estimates the amount of DFG in Baltic sea at 800 tonnes. 

Gears most frequently used in the southern Baltic Sea are trawl nets and bottom rigged gill nets. The gears that are estimated to be most prone to abandonment or loss, are bottom rigged gill nets. The Baltic Sea also counts a large number of ship wrecks, which are DFG hotspots. Some of the locations from which DFG will be retrieved have already been identified; more locations will be determined in the first phase of the project, in particular by consulting fishermen. 

Fishing gear on the beach

© WWF Poland/O Skumial 2 

Baltic workshop

The regional workshop took place on 5 and 6 November 2014 in Warsaw. The first day gathered potential partner organisations to discuss the set-up and implementation of the project. On the second day, policy-makers and potential project sponsors were invited to the workshop. The day started with an overview of the DFG problem and a presentation of MARELITT Baltic. The session was introduced – via a recorded video message – by Mr Jaroslaw Walesa, member of the European Parliament and Vice Chair of the Committee on Fisheries. A representative of the HELCOM secretariat also presented the draft Action Plan on Marine Litter, which includes actions on DFG. Read the workshop report and workshop presentations on DFG, project activities and participants

logo wwfLogo SimrishamnLogo KEST

About the consortium 

MARELITT Baltic is a joint initiative from four organisations, three environmental NGOs, WWF Poland, Keep the Estonian Sea Tidy and WWF Germany, and the Municipality of Simrishamn, representing KIMO Baltic.

WWF Poland has implemented the project ‘Collecting ghost nets in the Baltic Sea’ in 2011 and 2012 in Polish and Lithuanian waters, including retrieval at sea and cleaning of wrecks. 

The Municipality of Simrishamn currently runs a national project - initiated by KIMO Baltic Sea -  focusing on ghost nets and DFG in Sweden. This project will end in June 2015. KIMO Baltic Sea in cooperation with Keep Sweden Tidy conducted a small-scale ghost nets project in 2012. 

KEST was part of the European project MARLIN that conducted monitoring program of beach litter in the Baltic Sea and carried out marine litter assessments in ten key areas on the Estonian Baltic Sea coast. 

WWF Germany started a retrieval pilot project in 2013 in the Baltic Sea close to Stralsund. 


Workshop report MARELITT Baltic
Workshop presentation - DFG problem statement
Workshop presentation - project activities
workshop presentation - stakeholders in DFG project