Marine Litter Program Offers Global Forum for Cooperation

Experts from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), part of the UK government, are working alongside colleagues in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands to identify country-specific solutions to problems posed by marine litter, including reducing reliance on single-use plastics, improvements in waste management and developing more sustainable life cycles for plastics.

In recent years, the serious issue of marine litter and plastic pollution has been recognized by international governments and organizations, as well as local communities, as a growing threat to the marine environment and people’s livelihoods. It will form a key part of the UK- and Vanuatu-led Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA) launched at the April Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in London. The alliance unites countries around the Commonwealth in their shared ambition to tackle plastics in the marine environment. To support this, the UK government is funding the Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP) to help share expertise and solutions.

The program will bring together scientists, policy makers and communities around the world to identify actions that can be taken to stop plastic from entering the marine environment, remove existing litter from the environment and raise awareness of what individuals and society can do to protect marine habitats and wildlife.

Scientists from the UK are working with their colleagues across the Vanuatu and Solomon Islands governments, regional organizations, academia and community groups to develop ideas and actions that support existing efforts, such as the ban on plastic bags, that will enable them to further achieve their ambitions on tackling plastic pollution. The program will develop best practices and create a network of people, groups and communities across which solutions and ideas can be shared.

The two Pacific island nations, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, are the first to receive support through CLiP. Scientists will be in the region until the end of February, working with local colleagues and stakeholders to monitor litter, clean beaches and raise awareness of actions which can be taken.

A national policy workshop in January and a final conference in February for wider South Pacific stakeholders will summarize findings and share potential solutions for the region, also informing the roll out of the wider CLiP program in other Commonwealth countries.

Beyond February, as the program expands to other parts of the world, networks will be developed to ensure that any further ideas can be shared back to the South Pacific for consideration. —Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas)

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