Scotland held its first International Marine Conference at Strathclyde University in Glasgow last week where ACE and East Haven presented a poster abstract of the work undertaken locally to contribute to clean and healthy
seas. Representatives from more than 10 nations met to share information and collaborate on ideas and interventions to save our seas from pollution and the impact of climate change. Inspiring speakers contributed to debate and discussion about
issues from reducing litter at source to interventions to remove it and reuse it. Our seas provide around 70% of our oxygen and it really is a race against time to save the marine environment from catastrophic pollution of all types. It is generally agreed
that around 80% of marine litter comes from land based sources such as street litter, agricultural and industrial sources. A number of initiatives are taking place across the world to educate people and reduce the amount of non-reusable waste being produced.
In Scotland, the plastic cotton bud ban will be implemented in summer 2019 and the Bottle Return Scheme is progressing through its various consultation phases.
Around 20% of marine litter comes
from the fishing industry itself and much time was spent exploring ways in which fishing gear can be prevented from entering the sea and quickly recovered and reused if it does. Fishing gear is, by its very nature, some of the most dangerous and deadly litter
being purposefully designed to capture and kill marine life. New studies also highlight that 40% to 70% of micro plastics in our oceans can be traced back to ghost fishing gear. Sadly, almost all sea birds have now ingested micro-plastics and they have also
entered the food chain. There is now a real urgency at both a global level and a local level to act quickly to save the the seas and ultimately the planet for future generations. The Conference provided an opportunity to hear first hand about the work being
undertaken by scientists, researchers, engineers and innovators across the world to find solutions some of which are well advanced and will be used in the near future to progress the worldwide effort. As the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said at the conference,
Scotland is uniquely placed to help solve the global crisis. Not just because we have a strong history of living and working near the sea but because we CARE about it. This is demonstrated everyday across Angus as more and more people show their concern about
street litter and help to reduce it before it reaches the sea.
A key outcome of the conference was that the British Irish Council agreed three key areas where they could collaborate further
to ensure progress on this issue: establishing a system to facilitate the recycling of end of life fishing gear; co-operative working to further reduce the loss of pre-production plastics across the supply chain; and improving educational materials and modules
on marine litter for young people and the fishing industry. Minsters also agreed to register these actions as a joint voluntary pledge in the UN Communities of Ocean Action registry of voluntary commitments for the implementation of Sustainable Development