Marine litter is widely recognized as a threat to Europe’s marine ecosystems. It is a major societal challenge because it impacts the vast natural marine capital that supports economies, societies and individual well-being. Marine litter, of which plastic is a main component, is explicitly identified as a descriptor for determining Good Environmental Status (GES) under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Europe aims to achieve GES by 2020. The CleanSea Project (2013-2015) – the first ever framework program research project dedicated to the marine litter issue – will be providing key scientific knowledge and tools for marine litter action plans. The philosophy of the CleanSea Project holds that effective solutions to the marine litter problem will be supported by:
- comprehensive characterization and analysis of the marine litter problem (biological, chemical, social, economic, legislative and policy-oriented);
- harmonized monitoring and measurement capabilities;
- a suite of marine litter elimination measures and policies across sectors, governance levels, time frames.
This talk will focus on the micro-sized fraction of marine plastic litter, highlighting the current body of evidence for its environmental effects, as well as the challenges of measuring and managing it. The talk will also touch on the value of interdisciplinary approaches to environmental contaminant science.