Marine litter has become one of the leading threats to the marine environment, especially in countries that do not have an adequate onshore waste management system, and almost 80% of marine litter comes from land, and only a small part is generated at sea. The problem manifests itself on more levels, both ecological and health, economic and aesthetic, and it is present globally without exception. This has, of course, also resulted in a growing interest from the scientific and general public in researching the impact that marine litter has on the marine ecosystem and is reflected in a number of private and public initiatives. In the international environment, the role of the non-governmental sector has proven to be crucial for the removal of marine litter and the collection of data on it. Globally, the problem of marine litter stands out as one of the three biggest threats to marine ecosystems (along with overfishing and climate change), so it is not surprising that it is recognized by the UN, various international conventions and the EU whose Croatia is its legal successor (some international conventions related to marine litter were taken over 20 years ago). Although at the regional level UNEP / MAP, with the cooperation of non-governmental organizations, made considerable efforts in 2008 to assess the state of marine litter (quantity, type and distribution) in individual countries, the relevant data are sporadic and limited in time and space. The lack of adequate scientific knowledge on the quantities and origins of marine litter in the Adriatic Sea is a fact recognized by both the European Commission (MSFD) and the Barcelona Convention (BC) Secretariat, indicating the need to launch a coordinated regional assessment action to serve as an effective basis for the management of programs on marine litter.
Association Sunce monitored marine litter on beaches, the seabed and the sea surface. Through this research, unfortunately, we quickly became convinced that this waste is a big problem, not only of the world’s seas, but also of our Adriatic Sea. At all field research sites, one category of waste prevailed over 80% – artificial polymeric materials – PLASTIC!
From September 2014 to September 2016, the Sunce Association was involved in the implementation of the DeFishGear project, which aimed to identify problems and reduce marine litter in the Adriatic Sea. This pilot project provided the first estimate of the amount of marine litter in the Adriatic Sea, given that there were no concrete data until this project. One of the main goals was to establish a regional network of experts that will continue to cooperate with each other in order to support and ensure joint sustainable management of marine litter in the Adriatic. Association Sunce continued with the activities of monitoring marine litter through the projects ML-REPAIR, LIFE Artina and the implementation of the Marine Litter Cleaning Action service for the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. Within this service, a protocol has been developed for the implementation of actions for cleaning marine litter on the beach, through diving actions and through trawling for all who want to get involved in monitoring.
One of the strategic goals of Association Sunce is to become a reference point for monitoring marine litter and in cooperation with important stakeholders, such as the Ministry and scientific institutions, to form a platform that will be a general database for all information collected during monitoring in local government in Dalmatia.