Marine litter, Policies and legislation, International

See also: EU policies and legislation

The problem of marine litter was recognised by the UN General Assembly, in its Resolution A/60/L.22 – Oceans and the Law of the Sea of 29 November 2005, which calls for national, regional and global actions to address the problem of marine litter. In response, UNEP, under its Regional Seas Programme and under its Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), took an active lead in addressing the challenge through its Global Marine Litter Initiative.

Marine litter is also adressed by a number of international conventions:

The International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 thereto (MARPOL 73/78), is the most important international agreement covering pollution of the marine environment by ships. MARPOL regulates operational vessel-source pollution generated during normal operation of ships, including pollution by garbage through its Annex V Regulations. imposes an obligation on the Parties to provide facilities for the reception of ship-generated residues and garbage and includes requirements on the delivery of ship-generated waste and cargo residues, at port reception facilities.

The London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollutionby Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (1972) aims at the management of all sources of marine pollution, by preventing the dumping - the "deliberate disposal at sea of wastes and other matter from vessels, aircraft and other structures, including the vessels themselves" - of wastes at sea.

The Protocol to the London Convention (1996; commonly referred to as the "London Protocol") updates the Convention by adhering more strictly to the precautionary principle.

The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1994) aims at protecting environment and human health from the negative effects resulting from the "generation, management, transboundary movements and disposal" of hazardous wastes.

Furthermore, under the umbrella of UNEP´s Global Initiative on Marine Litter, the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference(2011) adopted the Honolulu Strategy (UNEP/NOAA 2011), which sets out a framework for a comprehensive effort to reduce the ecological, human health, and economic impacts of marine debris.

UNEP assisted 11 Regional Seas around the world in organizing and implementing regional activities on marine litter. It was agreed that the strategy to address the problem should be based on the development and implementation of regional actions plans or strategies for marine litter. As part of the development of these regional strategies, a number of regional programmes prepared a regional assessment, including the ones for three of Europe’s regional seas: OSPAR, BSC, HELCOM.

The regional sea conventions that govern Europe’s four regional seas are briefly reviewed in the table below, from the perspective of marine litter and FLL. Please see attached table below.

Regional Sea Conventions
Regional Sea Conventions