New federal action plan launches to reduce marine litter

New federal action plan launches to reduce marine litter
Illustration picture shows the 'fishing for litter' event in Zeebrugge, on 14 August 2019. Credit: Maaike Tijssens / Belga

A new action plan to tackle marine litter has been announced Minister of the North Sea Vincent Van Quickenborne and Minister of Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development Zakia Khattabi on Tuesday, 26 July.

There is an average of 3,875 pieces of floating litter per square kilometre in the Belgian part of the North Sea and 137 pieces per 100 square metres of tide line on the beaches. This is well above the EU threshold.

"Plastic waste is one of the greatest threats to nature and the biodiversity of the seas and oceans," Van Quickenborne stated. "Waste kills wildlife, weakens ecosystems and harms fishing and tourism."

Making a plan reality

The new plan outlines 25 concrete steps that build on the initial plan developed in 2017. The 2017 plan was evaluated in 2021 when it became clear that additional measures were needed to address the problem of marine litter.

Khattabi notes that the pollution of the sea and the environment at large is a result of a throwaway culture and notes that it is vital to address this larger problem and make life more sustainable as a whole.

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The new plan includes collecting and recycling old fishing gear, using alternatives to fishing weights, reducing the use of products that cause marine pollution, raising awareness among recreational boats, cleaning wrecks, and developing the "Fishing for Litter" project, which encourages Belgian fishing vessels to collect waste at sea.

The new plan was created with the collaboration of multiple stakeholders and national working groups. It sets actions for litter reduction until 2027 and can be accessed on the Federal Public Service website.

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