This project is funded by
the European Union

Case study: Derelict Fishing Gear Management System in the Adriatic Region

project information

The DeFishGear project undertook the challenge to address the need for accurate, coherent and comparable scientific data on marine litter in the Adriatic-Ionian macroregion. The DeFishGear project also piloted coordinated and harmonized actions on the science-policy-society interface for litter-free Adriatic and Ionian Seas and provided a strategic input to regional efforts in successfully achieving good environmental status in the Mediterranean Sea.


DeFishGear project aims to facilitate efforts for integrated planning to reduce the environmental impacts of litter-generating activities and ensure the sustainable management of the marine and coastal environment of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Its specific objectives were:
  • Address the knowledge gaps and research needs to facilitate effective decision making against marine litter and its impacts;
  • Address the emerging threat of microplastics;
  • Pilot prevention and mitigation measures to combat marine litter in the Adriatic-Ionian macroregion;
  • Enhance sub-regional cooperation in order to ensure a coordinated, coherent and integrated approach to achieve the good environmental status of the marine environment and effectively design and implement measures to address marine litter;
  • Implement coordinated and harmonized actions on the science-policy-society interface for litter- free Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
The DeFishGear project directly addresses the need for accurate, coherent and comparable scientific data on marine litter in the Adriatic region by taking up action along the following lines:
  • Defining a joint monitoring and assessment approach for marine litter (monitoring protocols), through a participatory process;
  • Carrying out surveys on beaches, the water surface, the seafloor and biota to enhance knowledge on amounts, composition and potential impacts of marine litter;
  • Establishing a Network of Experts on marine litter;
  • Building capacities to monitor marine litter in a harmonized way through reinforced exchange of experiences, techniques and know-how;
  • Analyzing the socio-economic implications of marine litter on people, their property and livelihoods;
  • Setting up a database to make marine litter data accessible to all stakeholders;
  • Developing recommendations and policy options based on the project findings and accumulated knowledge to meet regional and national objectives regarding marine litter (MSFD, RPMLMM, EcAp, etc.).
Its expected results were:
  • Improved knowledge on the occurrence, amounts, sources and impacts (including socio-economic impacts) of marine litter (including microplastics) in the Adriatic;
  • Harmonized marine litter monitoring activities in the Adriatic region and enhanced collaboration as a building block for future actions;
  • Strengthened & reinforced science-policy interface to support the integration of sound science into policy and decision making in effectively tackling marine litter;
  • Joint, coordinated and/or complementary schemes to manage human activities generating litter in the Adriatic Sea and strengthened implementation of relevant policy frameworks (Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Regional Plan for Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, Ecosystem Approach, Maritime Spatial Planning, Integrated Coastal Zone Management, etc.)

Policy context

The DeFishGear project provides strategic input to European and European Regional Seas efforts in successfully achieving good environmental status with regards to marine litter. The DeFishGear project is a concrete contribution to the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) and the related Directives (such as the Waste Framework Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Landfill Directive, Bathing Waters Directive, Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive, Hazardous Waste Directive, Port Reception Facilities for Ship-generated Waste and Cargo Residues Council Directive); the UNEP/MAP Regional Plan for Marine litter Management in the Mediterranean and the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR); the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL ) Furthermore, the project activities and outputs promote the implementation of the ecosystem approach and the implementation of the ICZM protocol.

environmental impacts

  • It is known that litter in the marine environment gives rise to a range of adverse ecological impacts, including: entanglement; ingestion; smothering; disturbance and removal of habitat through beach cleaning activities; transport of invasive species; and poisoning by breakdown products.
  • The project provides valuable information and strategic input to European and European Regional Seas efforts in achieving good environmental status with regards to marine litter.
  • The project provided accurate, coherent and comparable scientific data on marine litter in the Adriatic and Ionian in order to set priorities for action and address marine litter effectively, thus ensuring the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment of the Adriatic-Ionian macroregion.

socioeconomic impacts

The expected socio-economic impacts would be direct and indirect:
  • Direct, through the solutions co-developed and exploited for addressing marine litter. This is the first effort to-date aiming to assess in a coordinated, consistent, comprehensive and harmonized way the amounts, composition and to the extent possible, the sources of marine litter in all marine matrices (beaches, sea surface, seafloor, biota) of seven countries sharing the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. This is, in fact, the first of its kind marine litter assessment - at European and European Regional Seas level - which is based on comparable field data obtained for all marine compartments within the same timeframe, through the application of harmonized monitoring protocols, developed within the framework of the project, thus providing also strategic input with regards to coordinating, harmonizing and even standardizing marine litter monitoring.
  • Indirect, through the increase of the participants' capacity to increased knowledge about techniques and methodologies, and improved understanding of types of marine litter, its distribution, sources and impacts, as well as suggesting management responses
  • Establishment and strengthening of multi-disciplinary collaborative networks and multi-stakeholder partnerships, and fostering international cooperation in Research and Policy interface and knowledge sharing in mutually agreed terms The DeFishGear project clearly demonstrates that the increased costs and potential losses of revenue associated with marine litter for vital economic sectors such as tourism, fisheries, aquaculture and navigation are considerable, and that they negatively affect individuals, enterprises and local communities.
For the fisheries sector the average annual cost of marine litter per vessel reaches € 5,378 (cost of repairs of damages, loss of revenue due to the smaller catch, loss of time spent on clearing and repairing nets, etc., reported by fishermen per fishing vessel per year), an amount much higher than the one reported for EU vessels. Given this, the total losses to the fisheries sector in the Adriatic-Ionian macroregion were calculated to be € 18.19 million per year, which represents one third of the marine litter costs to the EU fishing fleet (€ 61.7 million per annum). On average, the annual direct and indirect marine litter related costs for the aquaculture sector were assessed to be € 3,228 per aquaculture farm unit. The total annual cost of managing marine litter reported by 38 harbours and marinas in the Adriatic-Ionian macroregion was € 323,550 with an average annual cost of € 8,518 per harbour. The average annual amount per tourism related business of varying size and type was calculated to be € 5,685 per year, which can be considered as a substantial expense. The total cost of removing beach litter reported by the 32 municipalities was € 6,724,530 per year, with an average of € 216,920 per year per municipality. On average, the municipalities spent some 5% of their budget for marine litter cleanup operations. The project’s contribution to Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), which covers four EU MS and three non-EU countries involved in the project, and which has an important focus on transnational research networks to boost high-skilled employment, growth and competitiveness, as a cross-cutting aspect over the four pillar identified in EUSAIR’s Action Plan .

key lessons

The study’s results substantially add to the sketchy yet growing body of knowledge on the economic effects of marine litter. This knowledge is essential for establishing a clear and holistic understanding about the severity and scale of the harmful effects (social, economic, ecological) of marine litter in order to assist the countries of the Adriatic-Ionian macroregion in the next cycle of the EU MSFD (Member States will have to update their initial marine litter assessments by 2018) and the implementation of the Barcelona Convention Regional Plan for Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, these results feed directly into the implementation process of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region that addresses a number of pressing socio-economic and environmental challenges facing the region, among which marine litter. In addition, the results can be of use to the EU Common Fisheries Policy in its role to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

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