Toolkit: Marine litter retention, Planning your project, Objectives

See also: Your local situation | Expected outcomes | Project budget

When establishing a marine litter retention project, it is very important to define the overall and specific objectives of your project. The objectives will give your project a direction and will allow you to focus your efforts on your intended results. The objectives of your project should be based on your local project situation and should be realistic given your potential resources.

The overall objective is the broader impact to which your project will contribute. An obvious overall objective would be “Improving the marine environment in the intervention area by reducing marine litter.” This overall objective would also contribute to the objective of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) of ‘achieving good environmental status’ for Europe’s marine waters by 2020 by helping to ensure that ‘properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment’ (MSFD Descriptor 10).

Your project might also have a number of specific objectives that will support your project in meeting its overall objective. Your specific objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals for the project. (The next section of the Toolkit provides guidance on how you can measure your progress on the objectives for the project.) The level of ambition of your specific objectives can vary greatly depending on your local situation and on what you think is achievable given your research and the cooperation of other participants in the project. For example, specific project objectives may include:

Your project might aim at raising the awareness of participating fishermen and reaching as many fishermen as possible by increasing the number of vessels that participate in the intervention area. You might aim at having fishermen’s associations promoting marine litter retention as a good practice that may even be integrated into an environmental management system or in a sustainable seafood labelling or information scheme. 

Depending on the system already in place in the fishing ports, your objective might be to integrate marine litter in the ports’ existing management system, or to go one step further and promote recycling of marine litter. If there are no reception facilities in some ports, the objective can be to create a waste management system in these ports. 

Depending on the characteristics of your intervention area, you might conduct awareness-raising activities targeting the sources of marine litter in the area and the public [for more information on this, refer to the guidance on awareness-raising]. 

Your project might aim to study the marine litter retained by fishermen to collect information on sources of litter, composition, location and volumes by analysing a sample of the marine litter that is being landed. Even though it is recognised that marine litter retention projects can be difficult to combine with monitoring because of their non-systematic sampling, these projects can still result in information that can be used by policymakers and other stakeholders in developing measures to improve marine litter management. 

Throughout the project, you will need to revisit your specific objectives periodically and measure what you have achieved. A revision of the specific objectives may be needed for example to take into account new information, such as the emergence of additional partners, or to match the requirements of specific funding sources. This is discussed in more detail in the section on project monitoring.