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This Year's World Oceans Day Stresses Raising Awareness About The Impact Waste Has On Oceans

Ljubljana, 7 June 2017 – This year's World Oceans Day, celebrated on 8 June, focuses with its overall theme "Our Oceans, Our Future" on raising awareness about the impact of waste on our oceans, as well measures to reduce the burden of waste on oceans. World Oceans Day and activities aimed at ocean conservation have been taking place at the international level since 2002 as part of the "The Ocean Project". World Oceans Day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008. This unique celebration unites numerous organisations and key individuals from the tourism industry, the maritime, fisheries and nature conservation sectors, and from the education sector, such as schools, museums, aquariums and institutes, and also from governmental organisations

Marine debris

Marine debris includes all solid waste from anthropogenic sources that in any way whatsoever enter the marine environment.  So far, research into waste accumulated on the coast, the water’s surface and the seabed has shown that most waste found in the marine environment consists of plastic materials. Plastics are artificial materials that cannot be easily degraded in nature (it takes a decade or more) and their use has increased extremely in recent decades. Because of these characteristics waste has been accumulating on the sea floor. Also other types of waste can be found in the sea, however, due to their characteristics only in smaller quantities. Other waste types include glass, metal, fabric, paper and processed wood.


Sources of waste in the sea

The major sources of waste are terrestrial activities (tourism and recreation, river outfalls, sewage outfalls and other discharges into the sea, waste landfills near the coast, improper waste management in towns, industry). Maritime activities also significantly contribute to marine debris (maritime transport, fisheries and mariculture). Most of the waste ends up on the seabed (70%), while the rest is disposed of in the water column and on the water’s surface (15%), or else ends up washed ashore (15%).


Impact of marine debris on marine ecosystems

Waste can have numerous negative impacts on marine ecosystems. Animals get entangled in the waste and be prevented from moving, which can cause their death. Animals might also consume marine debris instead of their usual food, which happens frequently with sea birds, reptiles (turtles) and mammals. The movement of marine debris between different ecosystems and areas can also cause the transfer of non-native species floating among the debris. Recent findings have revealed that toxic substances are accumulating in plastic litter and a particular problem is posed by microplastics, which can be easily transferred along the food chain due to their small size.


Waste in the Slovenian marine environment and along the Slovenian coastline

In Slovenia, marine debris was recorded for the first time on the coast in 2007 when an analysis was conducted of the quantity and composition of waste in individual coastline sections. In 2011, monitoring of debris floating on the surface and sampling microplastics in the marine environment were added to the scope of monitoring activities.

It has been established that the entire Slovenian coastline and the sea are mainly polluted by solid waste coming from land-based and sea-based sources. Along the Slovenian coastline, plastic waste amounts to 74% of the total amount of waste collected and as much as 90% of the total amount of waste on the water surface (i.e. floating waste). 

The first assessment of some activities contributing to the amount of coastal waste was carried out on the basis of a waste composition analysis that refers to the waste washed up on the coast. For now, the source of most of the waste cannot yet be defined (87%). However, the highest share of waste is generated by settlement (5%), being followed by mariculture (3%), fisheries (2%), tourism and recreation (1%), and maritime transport (0.8%). The composition of waste also varies by the seasons of the year; in summer, for example, there is more waste accumulated on the coast because of tourism. An analysis of how much certain activities contribute to the amount of waste collected on the water surface has not yet been carried out, however, it is planned for the future. 

Waste generated by the tourism industry mainly includes food packaging, picnic equipment, cosmetic packaging (sun care products), sunglasses, swim gear and accessories, cigarette butts and other. Fisheries and mariculture constitute the second largest waste generator in the marine environment. Characteristic wastes in this sector are shellfish farming nets, fishing nets and monofilament ropes, floats, polystyrene pieces and boxes, fishing lures and other fishing equipment. Fisheries and mariculture also generate other waste, such as food packaging, cigarette butts and waste related to vessel maintenance. Waste generated in maritime transport includes vessel ropes, packing belts, tar residues, oil and petrol packaging, canvas, sackcloth, carpets, food packaging with labels originating in countries not bordering the Adriatic Sea, cleaning product packaging etc.

In the Slovenian sea and along its coastline, only the presence of waste in the gastrointestinal organs of the loggerhead sea turtle ( Caretta caretta) has been analysed so far. Researchers isolated 15 pieces of waste ranging from 1.4 to 16 cm in length, taken from the stomach and small intestine of one of the 54 observed animals. The waste amounted to most of the stomach content. No pathological signs causing the death of that turtle were found, which confirms the fact that the turtle probably died due to the extremely high quantity of waste in its gastrointestinal organs (Lazar B. and Gračan R., 2011 Ingestion of marine debris by loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, in the Adriatic Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62).

The analysis results regarding the quantity of marine debris accumulated along the Slovenian coastline indicate a slight decreasing trend of marine debris generation. The cause of this decreasing trend has still not been defined. Maybe the reason is the regular cleaning of the coast. There are, however, plenty of other possible measures to be taken to reduce waste generation and the entry of waste generated through various activities into the marine environment.


How can we contribute to reducing  pollution of the sea and the coast by dumping waste

Appropriate management of the marine environment and the coastline is of vital importance for reducing maritime pollution. For this purpose, Member States implement within the EU policy the provisions of Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for community action on marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive), while in the Mediterranean region countries implement the provisions of the Convention on the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution (Barcelona Convention) with the pertaining protocols.

Important activities aimed at providing appropriate management of the marine environment and the coastline also involve activities that raise public awareness and involve the public in the design and implementation of measures to reduce pollution of the marine environment and the coast. 


Awareness-raising actions and active public  participation

In 2016 a project was successfully implemented entitled Living with the Sea under the slogan  "Protect the sea, be a star". Upon the initiative of the Ministry of Infrastructure – the Slovenian Maritime Administration – and the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning this project has brought together all key institutions and experts engaged in the protection of nature. The slogan "Protect the sea, be a star" addresses users of the sea and the coastal area/shoreline, as well as the general public, encouraging them to act responsibly. This year, the project was also presented at the 22nd International Boat Show Internautica. Due to its sustainable content related to the preservation of a healthy marine ecosystem and shoreline the project was awarded the "Adriatic Boat of the Year Award" as the best environmental protection project of the year 2017 in the opinion of the international jury.


Mediterranean Coast Week 2017 – invitation to active participation

At today's World Oceans Day we would like to announce the "Mediterranean Coast Week 2017" to take place under the central theme "Living with the sea".  During that Week numerous activities will take place in cooperation with several institutions involved in EU macroregional strategies.  From 20 to 23 September 2017 the following events will be held: round tables discussing the current topics, project presentations, workshops and a mass cleaning campaign entitled "Clean Coast 2017".  The opening ceremony followed by the Macroregional Strategies' Conference on Media and Communications will take place on 20 September 2017.


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Further information:

World Oceans Day


Project: Living with the Sea (Protect the Sea, be a Star)

Living Sustainably with the Sea: Initial assessment of sea waters within the competence of the Republic of Slovenia: Determination of good status of the marine environment, target values and indicators (Začetna presoja morskih voda v pristojnosti Republike Slovenije: Določitev dobrega stanja morskega okolja, ciljnih vrednosti in kazalnikov) (Peterlin and co-workers, September 2004, Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment)

Plan of Marine Environment Management: Initial assessment of the marine environment status – Prevailing burdens and pressures (Začetna presoja stanja morskega okolja – Prevladujoče obremenitve in pritiski (Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment,  Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia, 2013)


Mediterranean Coast Week

Come and join other actions


Promotional films:
Protect the Sea, be a Star
World Oceans Day 2017
Plastic Fantastic
Towards the Green Coast