Monday, 06 May 2019 14:21

EMODnet, a European marine data integrator, launched digital maps of beach and seafloor litter

EM3 19 News Int LitterMapIncreasing concentrations of plastic in our environment are a growing threat to ecosystems and human health.

Plastic has been detected in nearly all marine life – from whales to molluscs. In order to fight this threat, there

have been calls in international fora such as G7, G20 and the United Nations to bring the many measurements and

observations together to create a complete picture. Europe is now leading the way. Authorities and the wider

society now have a new tool to help track, map and identify where litter ends up in our seas and oceans and check

how it is affecting ocean health. The data and integrated maps on marine litter will allow people to detect trends for litter on beaches and the seafloor. These maps will also enable society to evaluate the efficiency of reduction measures (bans, taxes, rules, etc.) launched by both the European Commission and Member States, which will address marine litter in general, with two specific types being single use plastics and fishing gear.


The production of the maps is based on data from hundreds of data providers and monitoring efforts to gather

marine litter information scattered over Europe. The maps show, among others, the spatial and temporal

distribution of beach and seafloor litter based on official monitoring surveys and wider sampling efforts across

European countries. The types of litter are also identified, from plastics to glass, wood and metal, and from fishing

related items to land-based products such as cigarettes.

The first step in the production of the new marine litter maps consisted in collecting and storing beach and seafloor

litter data in the EMODnet Chemistry Marine Litter Database, which is the first pan-European Litter Database. A

number of processing and harmonisation steps were applied to the data, which is explained in detail in the metadata

available for download. Finally, the harmonised data were processed using a number of data management and

computation methods to create the variety of maps. Data collection and processing was a collaborative effort among

the consortium and various stakeholders among others the MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter, Member States,

Regional Sea Conventions, EMODnet Chemistry project partners, ICES Database of Trawl Surveys (DATRAS), Joint

Research Centre (JRC) and specific EU projects. A more dynamic and tailored set of products is currently under

discussion and could be developed in the future phase. To access the marine litter maps, visit