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EU Blue Economy Observatory
News announcement11 January 20242 min read

New guidelines for a unified strategy to deal with marine litter

The recently released Guidance on Monitoring Marine Litter in European Seas establishes harmonised methods for monitoring marine litter based on developments in research and Member States' efforts to improve data and assessment comparability. The JRC released the new edition as co-chair of the Technical Group on Marine Litter, first published in 2013. 

The publication recommends sampling, analysing and recording marine litter to make the data comparable and usable across countries.

It advises monitoring litter objects and particles of different sizes on the coastline and seafloor, floating on the surface and ingested by animals. It also recommends assessing the presence of organisms wrapped or trapped in marine litter, such as abandoned fishing gear.

Reliable data to protect our seas

EU countries continue to assess the state of their seas under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Consistent monitoring is vital, as it will ensure reliable and impartial information to address specific policy questions and concerns.

The new guidance will help national authorities to implement the MSFD and protect the marine environment against harm caused by litter, as urged by Descriptor 10 of the strategy.

But national authorities will not be the only beneficiaries. Other international organisations responsible for managing marine litter will also find it relevant, as it contributes to creating consistent and comparable data to address marine litter concerns in a global setting.

The updates

The updated guidance provides recommendations to address this problem. It aims to reduce the differences in the collection, classification and reporting procedures among EU countries, allowing for environmental assessment at regional and European scales.

The new guidelines aim to make a difference in many ways, such as:

  • Use of harmonised methods for monitoring marine litter, including plastic litter and microplastics, in the EU and the surrounding marine regions, in line with the requirements of the MSFD and the Commission Decision on Good Environmental Status
  • Improving the measurement of marine litter quantities and their impact and trends in the European seas.
  • Aiding in the identification of priority actions in the battle against marine litter.
  • Supplying detailed monitoring protocols, leading to comparable data on marine litter pollution available through the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet).
  • Providing support for EU policies created with partners around Europe.
  • It has been developed by a large scientific community of experts from EU Member States, research institutes, organisations, Regional Sea Conventions and Non-Governmental Organisations.

More information 


Publication date
11 January 2024