BARCELONA COMMITMENT Urgent call for preventing and reducing Marine Litter in the Mediterranean Basin

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Urgent call for preventing and reducing Marine Litter in the Mediterranean Basin

coordinated by
Surfrider Foundation Europe, Fundació ENT, eco-union

Marine litter

As globally recognized, marine litter is a complex and multi-dimensional issue with
significant implications at all levels: global, regional, national and local. In the Mediterranean
basin, this issue is more challenging due to its geographical and functional characteristics,
including high coastal population density, huge tourism and maritime transport flows and a
wide range of human-induced activities along coastal and marine environment.
Human activities both on- and off-shore lead to the release of litter in coastal and marine environments. The root causes of marine litter are related with the prevailing production and consumption patterns. Marine litter is primarily generated by land-based practices such as inadequate solid waste management, discharges of untreated or inappropriately treated wastewater, tourism and recreational activities and industrial outfalls. It has been found that the Mediterranean area witnesses the largest amount of annual per capita municipal solid waste reaching the levels of 208-760 kg/year. Litter from land-based sources finds its way to the sea via rivers, drains, sewage and stormwater outlets or when blown by winds, or even swept with the tide.

Of all manufactured or processed solid discharged, abandoned and disposed materials
in the marine and coastal areas –which is the definition of Marine Litter,2 plastic litter is the most important part. Plastics are now ubiquitous in the ocean increasing exponentially due
to their excessive use in recent decades. Studies have shown severe trends of rise in global
plastic production from 15 million tons in 1964 to 314 million tons in 2014 estimating a
continual and dramatic growth for the future. “Between 4,8 million and 12,7 million of tons of
plastic waste enter the ocean every year as a result of inadequate waste management”3.
The role of NGOs in tackling marine litter in the Mediterranean is prominent. Apart from running awareness-raising and education activities, NGO initiatives are significant in terms of data collection and cleanup operations.
Beach clean-ups carried out in the Mediterranean coasts demonstrated the connection between recreational use and marine litter items. Recreational and tourism related activities, including smoking related activities account for high percentages of the marine litter as shown in the lists of top ten items creating marine litter. A considerable amount of litter items related to sea-based are caused by maritime transport, ferries and cruises, commercial and recreational fishing activities, offshore installations and aquaculture sites. Although there is still a lack of data to clearly quantify the full impact of marine litter on wildlife, ecosystems, ecosystem services, human livelihood, wellbeing and economy; it has been highlighted at an international level that marine litter is a very critical social, environmental and economic problem: “The G20 countries recognize the urgent need for action to prevent and reduce marine litter in order to preserve human health and marine and coastal ecosystems, and mitigate marine litter’s
economic costs and impacts”.

Top ten items founded in beach clean-ups

Institutional framework

The Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean was adopted in 1995 and is today endorsed by all coastal countries and the European Union6. It aims to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources and to protect the marine environment and coastal zone, through prevention, reduction and elimination of pollution. By means of the Decision IG. 21/7, the Barcelona Convention adopted the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, responding to commitments foreseen under the Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities as well
as other institutional commitments and declaration such as: the Rio + 20 “The Future we want”, the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Honolulu Strategy, the Ecosystem Approach Roadmap, MEDPOL reports, among others.

Call from Civil Society

The 20th ordinary meeting of the Contracting Parties (COP) to the Barcelona Convention will take place between 17th-20th of December 2017 in Tirana. Considering that the COP20 agenda is focusing on protected areas and biological diversity in the Mediterranean, strongly affected by Marine Litter pollution, this current commitment has been elaborated and approved with the participation of a wide range of stakeholders during the Blue Eco Forum held in Barcelona on the 24th of November 2017.
The signatories, represent diverse civil society actors, underlining the urgency to move with a much more ambitious, concrete and comprehensive roadmap towards a Mediterranean that is free from marine litter. Therefore, the adhered organizations call for immediate actions to be taken by all relevant stakeholders in order to drastically prevent and reduce marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea, and by doing so to contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal no14.
The adhered entities have to take on the Barcelona Commitment in terms of undertaking concrete steps in their own strategies and action plans.

Barcelona Commitment

The Barcelona Commitment has been established by considering reports, initiatives, and statements of a wide range of NGOs, public authorities, academia and businesses to prevent and reduce marine litter in our seas and oceans; particularly focusing on prevention and reduction, communication campaigns and education and research staring from inspiring declarations.
Concrete steps have been discussed and agreed by means of dynamic workshop based on an analysis of 4 possible scenarios: Zero Waste Mediterranean Sea, Achieving GES in Med Basin by 2020, Mediterranean Sea Plastic Free, Stop Mediterranean Litter Inflow. In conformity with the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean and other obligations, the adhered entities to Barcelona Commitment ask for consideration to follow measures against Marine Litter in Mediterranean Basin:

1. To improve Mediterranean countries cooperation: Marine Litter as a common issue. Taking into account the urgent call for preventing and reducing Marine Litter in the Mediterranean Basin a cooperation between all Barcelona Convention countries is required to enhance synergies and maximise the results. Follow actions has been considered to accomplish this measure:
– To boost coordination between countries particularly on programmes and projects under EU and Non-EU funding systems dedicated to Marine Litter studies to avoid overlapping and duplication of efforts enhancing collaboration and communication of actions done; by means of regular meetings -annual or biannual- of project managers related to Marine Litter Projects in Mediterranean Basin.
-To improve transboundary cooperation by means of high-qualityfunding systems focusing on Marine Litter including funding support to reduce of inequality in situ between Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries in terms of research and infrastructures, especially by focusing on the 2nd phase of this EU funding period until
2020 and above all for next funding periods 2021-2027.
– To make available all information on Marine Litter in a common and public database
(open data) both on realized projects and scientific articles related with in the Mediterranean Basin; bring them together and keep under an institutional umbrella such as UNEP/MAP by 2025.

2. To phase out single-use plastic items. Considering the need to implement an effective ban a gradual transition has been proposed from 50% reduction target by 2020 increasing to 100% by 2025 allowing a production system restructuration and analysis of alternatives. Following actions have been considered to accomplish this measure:
– To support awareness campaigns focusing on banning single-use plastics and alternative items aimed at consumers and producers.
-To improve R&D focusing on cost-effective alternatives and ecodesign.
-To increase cooperation between stakeholders for the dissemination of best practices of banning single-use plastic items (e.g . handbook on best practices experiences).
-To introduce a successful follow up of this measure coherent policies and associated taxation and fine systems shall be taken into account in Mediterranean countries.

3. To achieve Sustainable Consumption and Production and Circular Economy. Mediterranean Basin area requires a critical mass of environmentally engaged citizens and applying sustainable production and consumption patterns in organizations, institutions, businesses and daily life. Following actions have been considered to accomplish this measure:
– To support public awareness and education activities towards sustainable production and consumption focusing on prevention actions and promotion of best practices instead of curative activities.
– To endorse policies by 2020 to implement strategies for Extended Producer Responsibility for entire products life-cycle in order to encourage companies to design reusable and recycling items as well as to reward eco-friendly and innovative products and discourage over-packaged products and to establish relevant taxes.
-To promote national policies and endorse administration of the Med area by means of tools or support for application of prevention measures by 2025:

· Deposit, return scheme for beverage packaging;
· Banning of lightweight plastic bags;
· Fiscal incentives promoting reuse and repairing pattern as well as collaborative economy.


Especial acknowledgements to Break Free From Plastic Mediterranean, Barcelona Local Council for their support to Barcelona Commitment and to MIO-ECSDE for revision and implementation of the present document.

Adhered Organizations to Barcelona Commitment


For further information contact:
Vanessa Sarah Salvo, Surfrider Foundation Europe (Spain): Jeremie Fosse, Ecounion:
Irmak Ertor, ENT Fundaciò:

Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the opening session of the Our Ocean conference 2017

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Your Majesties, Excellencies, dear friends,

Welcome to the fourth Our Ocean Conference, welcome to Malta and to the European Union, welcome to the Mediterranean Sea.

You know, before this sea started to be called “Mediterranean”, the Romans, my ancestors, named it “Mare Nostrum“, our sea. But they believed the sea belonged to them, and them only as a people, as Romans, not to anyone else. Today we know this is not the case. The sea is a global common. It does not belong to one people or another, because it belongs to all mankind.

So the words “Mare Nostrum” today have a totally different meaning. It’s Our Ocean not because it is mine and not yours, but because it belongs to humanity, to each and every human being. And we all have a responsibility to preserve what’s common – to preserve it as a treasure and avoid that it turns into a threat.

When oceans are healthy, they are one of the greatest resources we have. If the Oceans were a country, they would be one of the greatest world economies and for sure they would have a seat in the G7. Millions of jobs and livelihoods depend on our ocean. In our globalised world, 90 per cent of world trade is seaborne. Today the sea is not the limit, the frontiers, as it has been for thousands of years. Today the sea is our gate to the world. And I believe a place like this, a place like Malta, a region like ours, cannot but testify this.

But today we also know that the sea is getting sick and insecure. Our Ocean is bigger than any continent, and yet it is not too big to fail. When oceans are not healthy, the world is not healthy, and people, and us, we are not healthy. By 2050 the oceans could contain more plastic than fish. And the poison that we throw into the water comes back to us, to our tables, in the food we eat.

The rise of sea levels is already forcing millions of people to leave their homes and migrate. Talk to sailors, fishermen and people who live by the sea – here it is not difficult to do it, they will all tell you one thing: that they had never seen such strong storms before, or such big waterspouts.

The ocean is becoming a security threat – and we know it is not the ocean’s fault. We have scientists, and meteorologists, and we should  carefully listen to them. They told us that warmer oceans would lead to more hurricanes and this is exactly what is happening right now.

Some of you may have seen the images coming from the Bahamas just a few weeks ago. Hurricane Irma sucked all the water away from the archipelago. For several hours, the sea simply disappeared, and was replaced by a sea of mud. It sounds like a story from an old legend, but it’s not. It is today’s reality. And we, as human beings, are contributing to make this happen.

Climate change is man-made. Insecurity is man-made. But as an optimist, the good news is as we are currently part of the problem, we can decide to be part of the solution. This is something we can only do together. We share one world and one big ocean.

This is why I am so grateful to good friend John Kerry [68th United States Secretary of State, from 2013 to 2017] – who will join us tomorrow – for launching this initiative four years ago. And last year Karmenu [Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries] and I, together with all the European institutions, were very glad to pick up the baton and organise this year’s conference.

I am proud to announce – in the name of the European Union – that the European Commission is putting €560 million on the table, with 36 concrete actions for Our Ocean. These actions span from global cooperation with our partners, to small gestures in our everyday life.

I give you one small, but very concrete example: our embassies, our European Union delegations around the world have cleaned up 27 beaches in the course of this year. It is a small thing that makes a difference. We need a global alliance and we need everyone’s daily commitment. It is a collective responsibility that we all share.

No country can succeed alone, we have no alternative than to join forces. Let me just mention one of the most ambitious targets we have set together – to create marine protected areas on 10 per cent of the global coastlines. So the European Union and Australia have proposed to set up the biggest marine reserves in the world in Antarctica – and we invite our international partners to work with us to make this project come true. We need to join forces in our own interest.

Two thirds of the world is covered with water and two thirds of global waters lie beyond national jurisdiction. The health and safety of our ocean is a national security issue, and yet it cannot be guaranteed by any individual nation alone. What brings us here today is the urgent and inescapable need for international cooperation on maritime issues.

Experience shows the immense benefits of international cooperation – in all fields, in maritime issues even more so. When pirates made it impossible to trade and sail in the Indian Ocean, we, the European Union, have joined forces – among us and with international partners – to bring security to the coast of the Horn of Africa. We have sent our ships and personnel, arresting pirates and strengthening the local capacity to bring criminals to justice. And it worked.

In the Arctic Ocean, it doesn’t matter whether an icebreaker has a European, an American or an Asian flag. We all try to work together, because we all share an interest to travel freely and safely around the North Pole. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has provided the world with a clear set of rules, to prevent conflict, to facilitate business and to make the marine economy sustainable.

Experience also shows how dangerous our seas can become when power-politics strike back and confrontation prevails over cooperation. For this reason, we have made maritime security one of the central issues of today’s conference – with a very concrete contribution from the European Union.

We are investing in international cooperation in some key areas such as the Gulf of Guinea, to create a network of countries and port authorities to fight piracy together. We are working with our partners to fight criminal networks that have taken over the economy of coastal areas. The criminal economy of trafficking and piracy destroys the legal economy of fishery and tourism. So when we train local coastguards or we invest in the building and strengthening of the criminal justice system, we are also investing in a more sustainable and healthy economic system. We are also investing in our oceans.

But our work on maritime security is not only at sea or at land. The European Union has the best technologies in the world when it comes to satellites and high-definition space images. So we have decided to put our most advanced systems –Galileo and Copernicus – to the service of global maritime security. They will monitor pollution and oil spills, detect illegal fishing and search for Unidentified Maritime Objects. This is a top-class European technology that will serve a truly global security interest.

We Europeans, the European Union, we believe that a globalised world needs a more cooperative global governance. We believe in the power of diplomacy, we invest in it, we believe and invest in the power of common rules and international institutions. And it is difficult, actually impossible, to imagine a global governance without a cooperative oceans’ governance.

It is an ambitious goal, and it is a common strategic interest and it is also a moral imperative. But together we can reverse the worrying trends of today. Our ocean doesn’t have to be a security threat. It can be Mare Nostrum, our sea, for all mankind. Thank you.

Strengthen blue and green economy is urgent for a sustainable development of the Mediterranean area

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• The first edition of the Blue Eco Forum, co-organized by eco-union, EUCC and Fundació ENT, brought together around twenty international experts to focus on the sustainable challenges of the Mediterranean region.

• A report by eco-union, GEC and MIO-ECSDE places Spain among the countries lacking an up-to-date policy strategy for sustainable development, together with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Egypt and Slovenia

More than 90% of fish stocks in the Mediterranean are overexploited and many species, such as hake, are declining

• Marine waste, the refugee crisis, the sea and coast managements and the blue economy development, are among the topics discussed in the forum, held at the Museu Marítim of Barcelona

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Join The Blue Eco Forum to understand the sustainable challenges of the Mediterranean sea

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The Blue Eco Forum taking place on Friday 25 of November in Barcelona aims to address the main challenges the mediterranean sea is facing at the environmental, social and economic levels.

During the day, key notes, debates and participative workshops will gather more than 100 participants and over 30 experts and decision-makers. From 17h-22h, the Blue Festival side-event will propose cultural performances and citizens’ awareness micro-events for adults and children.

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Mediterranean Climate (R)evolution event at the COP21 in Paris

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eco-union, organizer of the eco-forum, is coordinating a round table on Mediterranean Climate (R)evolution at the  104 cultural centre in Paris (104 rue d’Aubervilliers, near Northern Railway Station) on Monday 7th of December from 17h to 18h. This event takes place within the  Climate Action Zone organized by Climate Coalition, a COP21 civil society network with more than 100 international environmental and social NGOs. Read More