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Every day coastal fishing and yachting activities generate thousands of tons of waste onboard the craft involved and in the ports; most of this waste is not properly managed or treated. This marine litter or debris has a huge environmental impact on the coastline, affecting not only water quality and sea beds but also the species living there; it might also pose a risk to human health and jeopardise safe navigation. With the aim of improving the management of this waste and heading off any marine pollution, a study was drawn up called Small-Craft Waste Management (Gestión de residuos a bordo de buques de pequeña eslora) based on fieldwork carried out in 34 ports of Galicia to find out the scale of the problem. The study identifies the type of waste generated and how it is dealt with both on board the craft and in the ports; it also analyses the impact to the marine environment and the best way of raising awareness and encouraging good practices among those involved.
By YOLANDA LISTA PERISCAL. Chemistry graduate. MA in Integrated Management. Occupational Risks Prevention Officer for the Small Craft Owners and Operators Association of Galicia (Asociación de Armadores de Artes Menores de Galicia: ASOAR ARMEGA).
The sea and coastline are vast sources of wealth and we depend on both of them for improving our economic and social development. According to figures of the Spanish Maritime Authority, professional fishery activities employ 52,000 people directly with an added knock-on effect of indirect and induced jobs. Yachting, for its part, is a growing-demand sector accounting for 15,000 direct jobs, a figure that soars to 114,000 if we take in the indirect and induced jobs. Furthermore the beauty of the sea and coast is one of the main tourism lures and driving forces behind the development of coastal areas.
Despite this, the recent study Sea Litter: a Global Challenge, drawn up by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ocean Conservancy organisation, published on World Oceans Day 2009, calls attention to the «worsening global problem of marine litter». The sea has become a vast rubbish dump. The oceans of the whole world build up millions of tons of waste, ranging from plastic bags and bottles, glass, remains of fishing gear and tackle to cigarette ends, television sets, refrigerators or beds. Plastic litter, especially bags and bottles, is the main waste found in the world’s oceans today (over 80% of the total). It is particularly worrying because it is an enduring and cumulative problem: it is estimated that the plastic litter will take hundreds of years to degrade completely.
THE OCEANS OF THE WHOLE WORLD BUILD UP MILLIONS OF TONS OF WASTE, RANGING FROM PLASTIC BAGS AND BOTTLES, GLASS, REMAINS OF FISHING GEAR AND TACKLE TO CIGARETTE ENDS, TELEVISION SETS, REFRIGERATORS OR BEDS
The report explains how this marine waste slowly breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that may then be eaten by living beings at the base of the food chain. Plastic litter is mistaken for food by birds, fish, turtles or cetaceans (whales and dolphins). UNEP has calculated that this pollution kills over one million birds a year and about 100,000 mammals. Experts point to the bioaccumulation of these substances in the organism of living beings throughout the food chain. The health consequences might be very grave: contamination is likely to get worse in seafood. The waste might also cause heavy economic losses, damaging seagoing craft, affecting fishery and tourism.
This report also stresses the problem posed by cigarette remains, especially filters and tobacco packaging, which, in the Mediterranean and equatorial coastal zones, account for up to 40% and over 50% of marine litter, respectively.
The total amount of ocean debris is unknown due to the lack of studies and the fact that a lot of the waste is not seen. It ends up sinking to the seabed (only about 15-20% of this waste is washed up as beach litter; another 15% remains suspended in the water column and the rest is deposited on the seabed) or is ingested by marine animals. As for the source of these remains, 20% comes from maritime traffic (fishery activities, cruises, commercial shipping and yachting) and 80% from land-based sources. It is estimated that the world’s boats and ships throw five million items of waste overboard every day.
Most of the floating waste is made up by plastic litter (soft plastic and bags, bottles, hard plastic, etc.) and the rest by wood. On the seabed, however, the commonest waste is glass, accompanied by more plastic, cans, tyres, small and large batteries, scrap, rope, remains of fishing gear and tackle and even some large-scale objects such as mattresses, household appliances, furniture, vehicles, etc. This article includes pictures taken during the seabed cleaning days organised by the Association of Small-Craft Owners of Galicia (Asociación de Armadores de Artes Menores de Galicia) at various points of the Galician coastline.
On these days the cleaning areas were located in sheltered waters, inside the rias and generally in the vicinity of a coastal-fishing port.
EVERY DAY BOATS AND SHIPS AROUND THE WORLD THROW FIVE MILLION ITEMS OF WASTE OVERBOARD. THIS FIGURE COULD BE DRASTICALLY CUT DOWN BY WASTE-REDUCTION AND RECYCLING ACTIVITIES
The commonest seabed debris in the vicinity of ports is solid waste from boat-reform, -repair and -maintenance work
(oil change, battery, painting, etc) carried out in the port area, such as oil and grease cans, paint containers, tyres used as mooring fenders, used engine batteries, cables, chains, iron fittings, etc.
Other debris often found in these areas stems from the wholesale fish market in the port, such as the trolleys used to carry crates of fish or the crates themselves, both wooden and plastic.
Waste in the form of used batteries from radios and other navigation-safety devices as well as the smaller batteries from torches, telephones and other appliances carried onboard are also found on the seabed around ports and in other further off areas.
Typical fishery waste is also scattered along the seabed of the Galician rias, such as remains of mooring cables and lines, fishing gear and tackle , underwater torches, gloves and some work clothes.
Seabed cleaning in the port of Riveira.
THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF OCEAN DEBRIS IS UNKNOWN, DUE TO LACK OF STUDIES OR THE FACT THAT A LOT OF THE WASTE ENDS UP ON THE SEABED OR IS INGESTED BY MARINE ANIMALS
Other objects found on the seabed of rias included a host of glass, plastic containers and cans, etc., partly from the consumption of food and drink onboard and in the port area.
Other waste found bears no relation to small-craft users, whether commercial fishery or leisure angling vessels, such as waste stemming from human settlements of the coastal zones, as shown in the pictures on these pages.
Better administration and reduction of waste, together with recycling initiatives, could dramatically cut down the amount of debris ending up in the sea and help to prevent marine and coastal pollution.
With this main aim in view, and also to raise awareness about the importance of waste recycling, a study has been drawn up called Small-Craft Waste Management (Gestión de residuos a bordo de buques de pequeña eslora), identifying the main debris and litter generated by inshore small craft users. It also analyses the abundance, composition and life-cycle of this waste, where it is found and its impact on the marine environment and examines waste management procedures and the current state of fishing ports and marinas in this respect.
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Work has also been carried out to raise awareness of small craft users to encourage «good practices» in terms of what to do with this waste and discourage the knee-jerk reaction of «tossing it overboard», with the overall aim of improving waste management onboard and in the port area.
As fruit of this study a report has been drawn up on the main waste stemming from fishery and yachting activities as well as its impact on the marine environment. A good practices handbook has also been published for management of small-craft waste explaining the effects of throwing waste into the sea and the legal obligations laid down on this matter.
PLASTIC LITTER IS MISTAKEN FOR FOOD BY BIRDS, FISH, TURTLES OR CETACEANS. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT THIS POLLUTION KILLS OVER ONE MILLION BIRDS AND ABOUT 100,000 MAMMALS EACH YEAR
The aim is not only to inform, however, but also to raise awareness of the problems of the marine environment, stressing the need to conserve it properly and protect it, encouraging a rational and responsible use thereof to guarantee the ongoing quality of the seawater and seabed and ipso facto the biodiversity and productivity of coastal ecosystems.
In today’s Spain there is now a huge number of seagoing vessels, both professional and recreational, operating inshore within 60 nautical miles of the coast. The sheer amount of waste generated by these vessels is staggering; furthermore, it is thrown into the marine areas closest to the coast, within a few miles thereof, precisely the area most affected by the coastline human settlements.
According to the figures of the Operational Fishery Fleet Census (Censo de Flota Pesquera Operativa) as at 31 December 2009, taken from the website of the Ministry for the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino) (http://www.marm.es/), Spain’s fishery fleet is made up by 11,116 vessels, 88% of them being less than 18 metres long. These boats are used close to the coast for coastal and inshore fishery purposes. To the waste generated by this fleet must be added the appreciable impact of the many recreational yachts sailing along the coast. According to figures of the Merchant Navy Directorate General (Dirección General de la Marina Mercante), under the Ministry of Public Works and Procurement (Ministerio de Fomento), 6828 new boats were registered in 2009, bringing the total fleet of recreational vessels in Spain up to 231,974.
Information was culled from fieldwork visits to 34 ports of the Galician coasts and 1132 surveys of both professional fishermen and yachters; further information was obtained from the seabed cleaning days.
The main waste was identified from the survey findings and the results to date of the seabed cleaning days organised by the Asociación de Armadores de Artes Menores de Galicia in the various ports of the Galician coast.
The surveys also gave information on waste management practices, while the 34 port visits enabled us to check the state of the waste reception facilities.
Reference was made to all the literature on the type and amount of waste generated by fishery activities and other activities in the ports of the Region of Galicia and also its impact on the marine environment (OMAR Project).
Likewise, a review was made of the pollution control and prevention legislation to be met by vessels of this type, as well as the legislation to be observed by the ports’ waste reception facilities.
The upkeep of small seagoing craft (cleaning, mechanical overhaul, painting and caulking) generates waste such as used engine filters and oil, thrown-out engine batteries, mooring fenders made of end-of-life tyres, grease, paint and solvent containers , hawsers , cleansing water as well as clothes and rags stained with hazardous substances such as solvents, paint, motor oil, lubricants, etc.
Seabed cleaning in the port of Camariñas.
Repairs and refits of these craft, for their part, generate mainly such waste as packaging, cables, glass fibre, chains, iron fittings, steel, rubber, glass, wood with remains of paint, old navigation and radio appliances, etc.
The consumption of tobacco, food and drink onboard and in the port area produces waste in the form of glass and plastic containers, cans, cartons, cigarette ends, cigarette packets, scraps of food, etc., as well as black water from the onboard sewage system.
The typical fishery waste involves remains of mooring ropes, cables and lines, fishing gear and tackle, underwater torches, gloves, working clothes, fish innards, etc. The fish market activities in the port then generate waste such as wooden or plastic crates (PVC, expanded polystyrene fish boxes,…), conveyance trolleys, etc.
MARINE WASTE COULD POSE A SERIOUS RISK TO HUMAN HEALTH AND ALSO CAUSE ECONOMIC LOSSES, DAMAGING SEAGOING CRAFT AND AFFECTING FISHERY AND TOURISM
The main pollutant waste produced by navigation activities themselves, boat upkeep, repair and refits, fishery activities, yachting and other port activities such as wholesale port-side fish markets and slipways, etc., are therefore the following:
The waste generated in port activities (upkeep, boat-repairs and -refits, sale of products, etc) and in wholesale port-side fish markets and slipways or waste from the port itself usually ends up on the seabed close to the port areas.
Onboard waste while the boat is at sea and typical fishery waste is usually scattered along the ria seabed and the coastal seabed out to a distance of about 10 miles, the usual limit of local fishing activities.
The MARPOL 73/78 Convention made it compulsory for all boats to discharge their waste into onshore reception facilities and laid down specific rules for discharging waste at sea. Spain is one of the countries that have ratified the convention so its annexes are enforceable throughout the whole national territory. The small craft we are dealing with here are bound by the following annexes in terms of waste generation and management: Annex 1 (prevention of pollution by oil); Annex IV (prevention of pollution by onboard sewage); Annex V (prevention of pollution by garbage from ships) and Other garbage and waste.
This international convention also laid down the obligation for all ports to run services for the reception of this contaminating waste. In view of the type of waste generated by vessels of this type and the needs of most of the port facility users, the waste reception facilities have to be at least the following:
In Spain, furthermore the Seaports and Merchant Navy Act 27/1992 (Ley de Puertos del Estado y de la Marina Mercante) of 24 November prohibits the discharging of any sort of waste within the public domain of the port and lays down fines for any polluting discharge from vessels in Spanish waters.
THE MARPOL 73/78 CONVENTION MADE IT COMPULSORY FOR ALL VESSELS TO DISCHARGE THEIR WASTE IN PROPER ONSHORE FACILITIES AND LAYS DOWN THE PROCEDURE FOR DISCHARGE AT SEA
The survey results show that plastic, glass and cans all loom large in the category of garbage-like solid waste but a particularly important source of marine debris here is smoking-related activities. 74% of the survey respondents smoke and 72.9% throw their cigarette ends into the sea.
Port of Fisterra.
As for hazardous waste 78.8% of the respondents throw away used engine oil and 69.7% do likewise with paint and solvent containers. 54.8% throw away small and large batteries and only 10% say that they generate black or grey water.
Only 12.5% of the respondents recognise the hazard pictograms and understand their meaning; 33.9% are familiar with them but not their meaning and 53.5% are not familiar with them or withhold their opinion. Moreover, 54.1% do not answer the question about whether they use any product containing these hazardousness symbols during boat upkeep operations; 41.3% claim not to use them and only 4.5% admit to using them.
The great majority (84.4%) confirm that they themselves change the engine oil and paint the vessel, meaning that they are responsible for dealing with the waste from these operations.
Most of the floating waste hauled up in fishing nets is accounted for by plastic and wood. A lower percentage of 30.9% report finding remains of mooring ropes and fishing gear while 20.1% report expanded polystyrene. The vast majority, 87.4%, do not answer the question of what type of waste they haul up in their fishing gear or claim they bring up none at all. 7% answer that they haul up remains of mooring ropes and fishing gear; 4.6% remains of seaweed and 2.1% containers, plastic and wood.
As for the management of the waste generated, 2% report that they throw it overboard. Most, 72.9%, say that they throw some overboard, like cigarette ends, and deposit the rest in port containers, without specifying if they classify it beforehand for disposal in the requisite port facility to favour selective collection and subsequent recycling. Only 20.8% of the respondents declare that they classify the rubbish for proper disposal in the port containers for each type.
During the fieldwork it was observed that the professional fishermen habitually unload in port the fishing gear and nets that are no longer any use to them. It was also observed that both professional and recreational boat users deposit their used engine oil in the proper port container fitted out for that purpose.
SMOKING-RELATED ACTIVITIES ARE A SIGNIFICANT SOURCE OF MARINE LITTER. 74% OF THE RESPONDENTS SMOKE AND 72.9% THROW THEIR CIGARETTE ENDS INTO THE SEA
As regards the state of the port reception facilities, the fieldwork carried out (visits to 34 ports of the Region of Galicia) showed that one hundred percent of the ports visited had general waste containers and the lion’s share of them, about 90-95%, also had containers for glass, paper and containers/packaging as well as stockpiling zones or containers for remains of mooring ropes and lines, fishing gear and tackle, wooden boxes and MARPOL Annex I oily waste containers. About half the ports visited, 52.9%, have containers for scrap and a lower percentage, 32.3%, also had containers for expanded polystyrene and batteries; only 11.8% have reception facilities for containers of hazardous substances.
Likewise, most survey respondents say that the port has a general waste container (97.4%), a glass container (87.8%) and MARPOL Annex I oily waste container (84.3%). More than half the respondents confirm that the port has containers or stockpiling zones for remains of mooring ropes, fishing gear and tackle (61.4%), wooden crates (57.4%), packaging containers (61.6%) and paper containers (52.3%). A lower percentage confirm the existence of containers for expanded polystyrene (41.3%), scrap (21%), batteries (9.6%) and hazardous waste (3.2%).
Fieldwork observations also showed that small craft users tend to accumulate small jerricans and drums with used engine oil in ports and in their working cabins, while waiting for the proper MARPOL Annex I oily waste reception facilities to be brought fully into service.
This prolonged and improper storage of small jerricans and drums in the port entails a grave environmental risk, with possible leakage and spills from these makeshift containers due to their bad state, holes or badly fitting lids. This could form a layer of oil on the floor which rain might then wash into the sea, with the consequent pollution. Besides the general soiling effect of this poor storage, it could also pose a risk to human health if any one passing through the area should slip over on the oily floor.
The competent authority in charge of this matter needs to improve the management of port waste, offering a proper service to port users to suit the particular waste and garbage produced by their activity.
The public corporation in charge of running the port (the competent harbour authority) has to determine the waste reception needs in each port under its jurisdiction and guarantee provision of the waste reception service, either by direct management or by hiring the services of authorised companies for carrying out this activity.
These companies authorised by the competent authority for the reception of waste from seagoing craft have to be equipped with the necessary material, organisational and human resources for carrying out the reception activity and also offer sufficient guarantees of maintenance of the conditions required under current legislation. This will avoid the problems found in 2010 in a service hired for the collection of highly polluting waste such as used engine oil. In this case the service was improperly run (unused containers, collection backlogs and build up of waste) and port users were unable to deal with their waste as required by the legislation .
THERE IS A NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT IN PORT WASTE MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES, OFFERING PORT USERS A SERVICE TO SUIT THE PARTICULAR KIND OF WASTE GENERATED IN THEIR ACTIVITY
It is also important for the port to have reception facilities for other hazardous waste as well as the Marpol Annex I reception facilities for used oil, such as containers for small and large batteries or paint cans, since waste of this type is also generated. Most of the small craft users, both professional and recreational, declare that they themselves paint their own boats and this seems to be a widespread practice in port areas. The antifouling paint used to prevent marine organisms from sticking to hulls is another significant pollutant, containing as it does heavy metals, like copper in oxide form, which have bioaccumulative toxic effects.
Small craft users need to be systematically informed of the type of waste produced by their activities, telling them whether or not this waste is hazardous and how to identify it, since the majority of survey respondents are not familiar with the hazard pictograms or know about them but do not understand their meaning.
As regards onboard waste management, the study shows that a high percentage of craft users throw some type of rubbish overboard. There is therefore a need for a specific campaign to stop this practice. The study also shows that many users dump their waste mixed up in general port containers, making it difficult for this waste to be selectively collected and then recycled. This practice, therefore also stands in need of improvement with advice being given about how to deposit the waste correctly.
The study also brought out the importance of users knowing about the effect of their waste on the marine environment. If they observe the effect of this waste, they are then more likely to discharge this waste in the proper port facilities, as is already the case with used engine oil and the remains of mooring ropes, fishing gear and nets. The rest of the waste, however, including hazardous waste like cans of paint used in boat maintenance, is currently dumped unsifted in general waste containers.
Craft users also need to be kept abreast of environmental legislation and the obligations incumbent on them, since any polluting discharge from boats in Spanish waters could lay them open to a heavy fine.
IT IS CRUCIAL FOR THE PORT TO HAVE NOT ONLY MARPOL ANNEX I PORT RECEPTION FACILITIES FOR OIL WASTE BUT ALSO OTHER CONTAINERS FOR SMALL AND LARGE BATTERIES AND PAINT CANS
Furthermore the UNEP study also shows the following: firstly that smoking-related activities are a big source of marine litter, since almost all respondents who are smokers throw their cigarette ends into the sea; secondly that plastic litter (containers, packaging, crates, remains of mooring ropes and lines and synthetic fishing tackle, etc) is the main source of waste found in the world’s oceans and is generated in all activities carried out (maintenance, repairs, refits, navigation, fishing, etc.). Lastly, a high proportion of ocean waste comes from land-based sources, the seabed having been found to contain a huge amount of waste not produced by seagoing craft users, such as mattresses, household appliances, furniture, vehicles, etc.