Marine Litter Monitoring & Evaluation Programme

Surfers Against Sewage launches new marine litter monitoring programme to collect vital data for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

We have launched a new Marine Litter Monitoring and Evaluation Programme and we are inviting you to become citizen scientists, playing an active role in improving the understanding of the distribution and impacts of marine litter.

A recent United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) report estimated that 8 million individual litter items enter the marine environment every day. Approximately 80% of marine litter is plastic which fragments gradually over hundreds of years but never truly disappears. During the fragmentation process marine litter will be directly responsible for the deaths of millions of birds, turtles, whales, sharks and dolphins as these unfortunate creatures either ingest or become entangled in the marine litter. Perhaps worse still, once fragmented into micro-plastic particles, they can enter the food chain, being eaten by plankton and other tiny microscopic marine life with potentially catastrophic consequences. Plastics also tend to become increasingly toxic in the ocean over time, attracting chemicals that which can severely impact the health of marine organisms and which can accumulate in the food chain.

Alarmingly, the UK Government recently referenced the lack of marine litter data as justification for inaction in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, highlighting the need to build a more robust marine litter dataset.  Working in collaboration with the European Environment Agency, we are now asking our supporters to download the free Marine LitterWatch app and carry out beach litter surveys as part of a pan-European citizen science project. This vital data  will help influence important decision makers in Government, industry and communities by feeding directly into the UK Marine Strategy Framework Directive database and evidencing the need for the urgent new action and measures we are calling for in our Marine Litter Report.

The app is easy to use, loaded with hundreds of litter items found on European beaches and features a handy top 20 of the most common items of litter you’ll find on UK beaches. Surveys can be carried out with the Marine LitterWatch app on the beach and, once complete, users simply enter a unique Surfers Against Sewage code and upload the data to the web. This will feed into SAS’s unique dataset, allowing us to identify trends and priority areas to develop community initiatives and new campaigns.

The Marine LitterWatch app is free to download and easy to use. Follow the links for the Marine LitterWatch app on iOS and Android devices, our handy 5 Step Marine Litter Monitoring Guide and some useful FAQs from our monitor experience.