About the UNEP GPA
About the UN IMO

The objective of the Global Marine Litter Information Gateway — a co-operative effort of the UNEP GPA Coordination Office and the UN International Maritime Organization — is to provide a clearing-house, a gateway, for supply and exchange of information on the global, regional and local problem of marine litter. The Global Marine Litter Information Gateway is the marine litter (marine debris) node of the GPA Clearing-House Mechanism.
UNEP GPA: Major threats to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the marine environment result from human activities on land — in coastal areas and further inland. A large proportion of the pollution load in the oceans originates from land-based activities, including municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes and run-off, as well as atmospheric deposition. These contaminants affect the most productive areas of the marine environment, including estuaries and nearshore coastal waters. The marine environment is also threatened by physical alterations of the coastal zone, including destruction of habitats of vital importance to maintain ecosystem health.

In response to these major problems, 108 governments and the European Commission in 1995 declared their commitment to protect and preserve the marine environment from the adverse environmental impacts of land-based activities. The UNEP Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities and the Washington Declaration were adopted in 1995 and UNEP was tasked to lead the co-ordination effort and to establish a GPA Co-ordination Office.

The GPA targets major threats to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the coastal and marine environment resulting from human activities on land. It is an integrated, multi-sectoral program, premised on serious commitment for action at all levels: local, national, regional and global. It recognizes the need for improved, regular co-operation at the regional level, as well as partnerships with international organizations and major groups that contribute to the pollution and degradation of the coastal and marine environment. The GPA is designed to be a source of conceptual and practical guidance to prevent, reduce, control or eliminate marine degradation from land-based activities. Action at the national level, supported by regional and global action, is recognized as the major guarantee for the successful implementation of the GPA.

Effective implementation is an essential step forward in the protection of the marine environment, and contribution to the objectives and goals of sustainable development. It relies ultimately on the political will and determination of Governments to take concrete action in addressing the underlying causes of marine degradation originating from land-based activities. It is, inter alia, recommended that the States identify and assess problems related to the severity and impacts of contaminants including sewage; persistent organic pollutants, radioactive substances, heavy metals, oils (hydrocarbons), nutrients; sediment mobilization; marine litter; and physical alteration & habitat destruction (the GPA Pollutant Source Categories).

At the regional level one of the major objectives of the GPA is to support and facilitate the implementation of land-based sources/activities components of the various UNEP Regional Seas Conventions and Action Programmes.

One important part of the work of the GPA Co-ordination office has been the establishment of an information and data Clearing-house as a means to mobilize experience and expertise, including facilitation of effective scientific, technical and financial cooperation, as well as capacity-building. The GPA Clearing-house Mechanism provides a rapid and direct referral system to relevant information and data. In effect, it provides a mechanism for responding to requests from Governments on a timely basis.

INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION: The purpose of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is to provide a machinery for co-operation among Governments in the field of governmental regulation and practices relating to technical matters of all kinds affecting shipping engaged in international trade; to encourage and facilitate the general adoption of the highest practicable standards in matters concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships. IMO and its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is responsible for co-ordinating the implementation of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships – MARPOL 73/78 Convention (with Annex V about garbage).

The MARPOL 73/78 Convention is the main international convention aimed at controlling pollution from the shipping sector. It covers accidental and operational oil pollution, as well as pollution by chemicals, goods in packaged form, sewage, garbage and air pollution. The Convention regulates what kind and quantities of polluting substances that ships may discharge into the sea, taking into account the ecological sensitivity of different sea areas. Plastics are in no case allowed to be disposed of at sea. Five Annexes to MARPOL 73/78 cover regulations for specific kinds of pollution. Annex V deals with garbage/marine litter. In July 2002 it had been ratified by 108 states corresponding to 89 per cent of the world tonnage. The North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Wider Caribbean regions have all been designated as so-called Special Areas with regard to Annex V. In accordance with the regulations for Special Areas, discharges of garbage (except food waste) into the sea are prohibited in these areas. However, food waste can be discharged into the sea no less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

The GPA Pollutant Source Categories were designated along with a designated lead agency that is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the clearing-house node for that source category. The UN General Assembly called upon 'governing bodies of relevant international organizations and programmes so as to ensure that these organizations and programmes take the lead in co-ordinating the development of the clearing-house mechanism with respect to the pollutant source categories'. Initially, the IMO took on the role as leader of the work related to marine litter. With the kind assistance of Environment Canada, a web site on Oil and Marine Litter was published by the IMO. The Global Marine Litter Information Gateway builds partly on that site and has, subsequently, taken over as the overall gateway for information on marine litter. It has been developed as a joint effort of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the IMO and the UNEP GPA.

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