From 14 to 16 November 2018, World Heritage marine managers and marine litter experts from around the world met at the Island of Norderney in the Wadden Sea World Heritage site to discuss impacts of marine litter and plastics. During the 3-day workshop, best practices on marine litter monitoring, clean-up campaigns and awareness-raising were exchanged.  

Marine litter, including plastics, is a growing concern for the health of the oceans. Marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List are not immune to the problem. In 2016, scientists determined that at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year and that, by 2050, the ocean might contain more plastic than fish. Studies estimate that several World Heritage sites such as Henderson Island (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) or Papahānaumokuākea (USA) are located at the edge of major ocean gyres which transport plastics and marine litter to their beaches and ocean environment.

“World Heritage sites are of global importance and require special protection to conserve and maintain their Outstanding Universal Value. With marine litter increasing every year, the potential impacts are of growing concern and require careful attention.” said Dr Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre.

The workshop is the first to focus on this problem in World Heritage marine sites. While part of the problem can be addressed at the local level through clean-ups and other initiatives, a core part of the solution in reducing marine litter at World Heritage sites will require strategic global action. Marine managers from Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles), Wadden Sea (Netherlands/Germany/Denmark), Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves  (Brazil), Komodo National Park (Indonesia), and Papahānaumokuākea (USA) participated in the workshop. Twelve experts from 11 countries shared their expertise and experience with the World Heritage marine managers. During a field visit, the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park Authority showcased its solution to treat marine litter through its successful Strand-Müll-Box initiative  at the World Heritage property.

“It is excellent that the World Heritage marine managers network is being mobilized to look at how we can tackle the challenge of marine litter for our unique sites of global importance.”, said Harald Marencic, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat.

World Heritage marine managers share a wealth of solutions and best practices on how to deal with the conservation challenges they face. Bringing these success stories together in ways that make them suitable for replication in other marine areas, is a central part of the World Heritage Marine Programme’s work.

The workshop was organized by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS), the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park Authority (NLPV), with the support of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme. The initiative received support from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Schleswig-Holstein Wattenmeer National Park Authority, KIMO International and the ICBM University of Oldenburg.