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Collaborating to tackle marine litter

26 February 2019

​The Minister for the Environment, Deputy John Young, has pledged to work with politicians from across Britain and Ireland to tackle marine litter.

At the British-Irish Council Marine Litter Symposium, hosted by the Scottish Government, on Friday, Deputy Young met other environment Ministers from the UK, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man and Guernsey governments.

The Ministers agreed to look at how best to recycle old fishing equipment and to promote marine litter education for schoolchildren and those working in the fishing industry. Ministers also promised to work together to reduce the amount of pre-production plastic, such as pellets, flakes and powders used in manufacturing plastic, found in sea and rivers.

All Ministers agreed to register these actions in the UN Communities of Ocean Action registry of voluntary commitments.

The symposium, which took place in the same week as the International Marine Conference 2019, also hosted by the Scottish Government, built on the outcomes of the 30th British-Irish Council Summit, held in Guernsey in June 2018. That Summit highlighted a number of marine environment issues including: tackling marine litter; marine biodiversity and Marine Protected Areas; and how to address ocean acidification.

The Ministers, who were welcomed to the Strathclyde University Technology and Innovation Centre by Roseanna Cunningham MSP Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, stressed that marine litter was an issue that needed urgent, concerted and collaborative action at all scales, from local to global.

At the symposium, Deputy Young spoke about successful Jersey initiatives such as eco active. “Work by the eco active team has already made a huge contribution to wider environmental awareness in the island through a range of initiatives,” he said. “The education effort has extended into the wider community which is helping us all change our behaviour when it comes to discarding marine litter. So many groups and businesses have taken part in beach cleans and research into where this material comes from, and this information is important to us. It was good to hear that this trend is also happening in the other BIC jurisdictions, and our collaboration with help us make even more of a difference.”

Deputy Young added that joining forces with other members of the British-Irish Council would help Jersey build on the projects that are already tackling marine litter. “Our Ports of Jersey is working with sponsors to provide sea bins in the harbours – they have to be emptied very hour or so as so much litter floats in with every incoming tide. Our fisherman are already working actively with our fisheries officers, fully recognising the concerns of discarded gear that is often left on our beaches.”

Although Jersey does not face the same problems to the same scale as other jurisdictions, such as plastic pellets known as ‘nurdles’ which are used to make most plastic products, Deputy Young said that the island could still play a role in sharing its resources.

“We don’t have any plastics manufacturing in the island so any plastics ‘nurdles’, which are a big problem internationally, are washed in from elsewhere,” he said. “However, pioneering research and field work at sea around Jersey and on beaches by a local student in collaboration with our fisheries team has recently highlighted the presence of micro plastics in Jersey which come from other sources. We will be following this up and sharing our research.”

Also at the symposium was Grace Nolan (21), who attended as Jersey’s youth representative. She said that Jersey was already having a positive impact on reducing marine litter but that more could always be done.

“Jersey is already having a positive impact on reducing marine litter and the symposium reflected the many great ways young people around the world are helping reduce marine pollution,” she said. “We are very fortunate to be so close to the ocean and it is exciting that we can all work together to reduce single-use plastic and protect marine life. It was great to see different parts of the British Isles collaborating on something we are all so passionate about.”

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