Marine LitterWatch - engaging European citizens in tackling beach litter
Following the Rio+20 conference the EU is part of an international commitment to reduce marine litter significantly by 2025. A main contribution to this commitment is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The MSFD came into force in 2008 and is currently being implemented by EU Member States. It determines that EU member States will implement measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status of the marine environment by 2020. Marine litter is identified as one of the main threats to reaching this objective.
At present, there is insufficient data to assess the problem of marine litter properly. Moreover, in view of the overall monitoring requirements for MSFD purposes, Member States will need to develop innovative and cost-efficient monitoring methods and tools.
To address this issue, the EEA is offering the citizen science based Marine LitterWatch (MLW). MLW aims to help fill data gaps on beach litter relevant for MSFD purposes at the same time as it explores the benefits of involving citizens in the collection and monitoring of marine litter.
Following the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) principles MLW is developed to collect the data once and use it for multiple purposes. Data on the type and number of litter items on the beach will be collected through the use of a mobile application. MLW applies a two-tier approach: monitoring to support official processes and voluntary clean-ups. This way, MLW sustains a collective approach to marine litter management by involving and engaging as well as raising awareness amongst government bodies, industry and citizens.
The app allows people to make beach surveys using a European master list of marine litter items. These items are commonly found on Europe’s beaches, for example, various plastic items, cigarette butts, bottles, fishing materials, etc. Data on the litter found is submitted through the app to a public central database hosted by the EEA. From this database, data can be retrieved and used in other databases and/ or further disseminated into a wider range of products (e.g. survey reports and maps). Data can also be visualised through the EEA web site and embedded in other web pages or applications.
MLW has been developed by the EEA in collaboration with the Marine Conservation Society, the Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia, the North Sea Foundation and the PERSEUS FP7 research project.
Initially, MLW has been developed for Android devices. It was tested during the summer 2013 and is now available to all European citizens. It can be downloaded, free of charge, from the Google app store.
The iPhone version is expected during spring next year.
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