Block 3. ATLANTIC REGION SESSION I
Coordinated by CETMAR
The goal of the session was:
- Portray the status of marine litter in the Atlantic Area.
- Highlight latest progress achieved on the monitoring and modelling of litter in marine, coastal, estuarine and river environments in this region.
- Pay special attention to assessing the potential links between the Marine Strategy Directive and the Water Framework Directive.
- Marisa Fernández – CETMAR
- Vanessa Sarah Salvo - Surfrider Foundation Europe
Led by the CleanAtlantic project, this session will showcase latest advances on marine litter monitoring, modelling, and detection of hotspots. In connection with Session II, it will provide technical context to further discuss how to link the Water Framework Directive (WFD) to the Marine Strategies, and to identify gaps and needs for further research. The session will include presentations of different projects working on these issues, such as Life LEMA, LitterDrone and CleanAtlantic.
- “Welcome and presentation of the objectives of the Session” - Marisa Fernández – CETMAR.
- “CleanAtlantic at a glance” - Marisa Fernández – CETMAR.
- “Life LEMA at a glance” - Vanessa Sarah Salvo - Surfrider Foundation Europe.
- “Tools for monitoring marine litter” - Jesús Gago - Spanish Oceanographic Institute.
- “Enhancing Marine Litter detection and monitoring: applications of UAVs and object based imagery analysis” – Jesús Jiménez – ARDITI.
- “Marine litter modelling & hotspot mapping: Fate of plastic debris in the marine environment” - Ramiro Neves - University of Lisbon, MARETEC.
- “Applicability of Drones for beach litter monitoring inside LitterDrone project” - Juan Pablo Pérez - Spanish Marine Litter Association, AEBAM.
- “Floating marine litter in the SE Bay of Biscay and Life LEMA project” - Oihane Cabezas-Basurko - AZTI Research Centre.
- “An operational Life LEMA tool for monitoring and management support of marine litter on near-shore” - Irene Ruiz - AZTI Research Centre.
- Open questions
Marisa Fernández presented the framework and objectives of the Atlantic Region Sessions, co-organized by CleanAtlantic and Life LEMA project, and the dynamics of Session I. After this introduction, she presented the CleanAtlantic project.
The aim of CleanAtlantic is to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Atlantic Area by improving capabilities to prevent, monitor, locate and remove marine litter. Key outcomes will include user friendly online maps and databases showing marine litter data, knowledge and best practices, improved data management systems and monitoring tools, transport models and maps of hotspots and new insights on risks and impact of marine litter. Capitalization and awareness-raising actions planned in the scope of the project were highlighted as a way to facilitate the final transference of the results to end users and to change attitudes of stakeholders and civil society.
Project Life LEMA was presented by Vanessa Salvo. The main objective of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a sustainable management strategy to address floating marine litter by local authorities. Special emphasis is being placed on the diversification of the activities of the fishing sector, which could be directly involved in marine litter collection. To accomplish these project goals, the project has been organized in 5 different axes (awareness raising/network of experts, detection, prediction, marine litter collection and intelligent management). It is also intended to transfer the positive outcomes to end users and replicate the project methodology in other geographic areas (Marseille - Mediterranean Sea).
In the second part of this session, representatives from CleanAtlantic, Life LEMA and LitterDrone projects shared their latest advances on marine litter monitoring, modelling, and detection of hotspots.
Firstly, Jesús Gago presented different tools for at-sea litter monitoring being improved and/or tested in the CleanAtlantic project. Regarding seabed litter, he pointed out that the list of categories and subcategories for the items monitored must be user-friendly and as synthetic as possible to facilitate data comparison with other sampling methods. He also emphasized the need to continue developing other complementary non-invasive technologies, such as ROV or Photogrammetric SLED. Floating meso and micro plastic litter is being monitored during the surveys of fisheries that different institutions carry out periodically (e.g. IEO, IFREMER, etc.). In the case of macro litter, other aerial and spatial techniques are used for its assessment. In the framework of the CleanAtlantic project, satellite calibration experiments are being carried out, but available data have low definition (10x10m pixel size). Drone field tests and protocols have also been implemented and some preliminary findings (requirements and constraints) will be taken into account for further experiences.
The following gaps and challenges were highlighted:
-Need for harmonization by international organizations (OSPAR, ICES, etc.) of all the monitoring methodologies (seabed, floating or beach litter). There is still room for improvement, particularly in the monitoring of beaches.
-Development of simpler, faster and cheaper tools for marine litter monitoring.
Jesús López Jiménez presented the different technologies that ARDITI is using in the framework of CleanAtlantic to detect and monitor marine litter (floating, beach and seabed litter).
To monitor beach litter, they are using the OSPAR methodology (100 m transects), that will likely need to be modified to adapt it to the use of drones that will focus only on a qualitative characterization of litter. Besides, collaboration with stakeholders and clean-ups are foreseen to improve marine litter detection.
Automated counting technologies are also explored (fluorescence and imagery analysis) for mesoplastics sand samples, in order to reduce the processing time, and to increase sampling size and geographical range.
At sea, they are facing difficulties with the deployment of drones from large fishing boats due the interferences with the metallic hulk and antennas of these vessels. However, from small vessels drones can land and take off from the sea surface without problem.
Regarding the seabed, citizen engagement is foreseen (e.g. diving clubs) to tag marine litter items or report their concentration. Collaboration with M-ITI was already established to develop apps for citizen’s science-based data collection.
Ramiro Neves talked about marine litter modelling and hotspot mapping. The basic inputs to study hotspots are hydrodynamic models at different scales (global, local and estuarine), wind models (for floating debris) and finally Lagrangian models to perform the particles tracking modelling. Data are available from NOAA and these models are being implemented in the CleanAtlantic project. Wave modelling is also being considered in these studies to simulate the beaching of litter.
On a large scale, a model for the Atlantic area has been running for two years, allowing the identification of an accumulation zone (North Atlantic anticyclone) and the discrimination of clean areas. The African and Iberian coasts were identified as clean zones due the upwelling effect and the removal of floating debris towards the continental shelf.
On a smaller scale, inlet and outlet currents in an estuary cause part of the particles modelled to be finally beached and found on the coast. This is mainly due to the effect of the wind and waves.
Historical data, principally long data series, are necessary to validate models’ accuracy. Those that have been used in the scope of the project for different areas (Galicia, Ireland, etc.) show a good match between models and drifters’ trajectories.
Main gaps and challenges identified in the scope of modelling are:
- Capacity to forecast the evolution of plastic density.
- Size matters only if it modifies the dry volume.
- Plastic that becomes denser than water will sink on the way to the floating accumulation hotspots.
Juan Pablo Pérez (AEBAM), Ohiane Cabezas (AZTI) e Irene Ruiz (AZTI)
Juan Pablo Pérez Gómez presented the main developments achieved in the framework of the Litterdrone project, which already ended in January 2019.
The main objective of the project was the development of an innovative tool for marine litter control and management in coastal areas. For this, new technologies were applied to traditional beach litter sampling methodologies. Two different drones were used, multirotors (low altitude and short distances) and fixed wing (high altitude and long distances) equipped with three types of camera: RGB, multispectral and thermal.
Sampling was performed on two beaches of the Cíes Islands, located in the National Park of Atlantic Islands of Galicia (NorthWest Spain). In one of them, periodic campaigns were performed, following the official Beach Litter Monitoring Programme of the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition (100 m sampling, all litter items and 1000 m sampling only large items (>50 cm)). This allowed Litterdrone results to be contrasted with official monitoring results. During a first phase of this project the software developed was trained and calibrated. In a second stage, the campaigns carried out by the Ministry were also coupled. Data obtained by the cameras were exported as CSV files or to a GIS program.
It was concluded that results were satisfactory and similar to those obtained using traditional methodologies with large items, but less precise when smaller objects were sampled. Consequently, it could be an interesting tool to work on large scales or to access remote areas. Also, information gathered from drones could be useful in studies performed together with litter monitoring (dunes, vegetation and beach dynamics).
It is expected that climatologic and oceanographic models can be used in complementary fashion to detect litter items. In addition, it was pointed out that in the near future detection technologies improvement and production of new sensors will allow litter hotspots to be identified.
Oihane Cabezas shared what is being done in terms of monitoring and collection of floating marine litter in the framework of the LifeLEMA project (SE Bay of Biscay). The project’s main goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of a sustainable management strategy to address floating marine litter by local authorities.
Collection of floating marine litter was carried out using a 5-vessel fleet that includes 2 fishing vessels. All of them were equipped with a fuel consumption monitoring device and a geo-positioning system. All the data collected by these vessels are included in the LEMA tool that is used by local authorities and the vessel crews (online dashboard for FML operations management). Collection of floating litter is focused on litter windrows floating hotspots (frontal areas). During 2018 (68 days) 151 litter windrows were found and 14 Tn of litter were collected (each windrow represented 1km in length and 88 kg of litter on average). After each haul the information is reported, including the total weight brought on board. This information is used to map the situation and identify the number of litter windrows. A seasonal pattern was found; more accumulation was detected in the spring months.
Litter windrow characterization was carried out both in number and in weight. 4,302 items were found and were categorized by type of material in 7 categories and 63 sub-categories. More than 40% of what is found is of unknown origin. Sea-based source represents 34% in number of items and 54% in weight of the total floating marine litter.
Monitoring of riverine litter was carried out with a videometry system, using near-infrared cameras, which were installed in four estuaries. The algorithm used provides information on all the items that pass through a river section, its size and speed.
Finally, Irene Ruiz Muñoz focused her presentation on the operational tool for monitoring and management support of marine litter on the near-shore, also developed in the scope of LifeLEMA project. One of the project milestones is to implement this user-friendly tool that provides detailed information to both the authorities and the fishermen in charge of collecting floating marine litter. It is structured in two parts, one focused on monitoring (data gathered from vessels, camera, etc.) and the other on prediction.
Prediction was addressed with two different approaches: the first one is based on statistical and artificial intelligence models; information from different sources is gathered in order to obtain a prediction index of marine litter accumulation on beaches. This information is used by local authorities responsible for beach clean-up. On the other hand, Lagrangian particle tracking models are used to simulate litter transport at sea, to produce floating marine litter density maps in the coastal area that include information about trends, litter abundance and hotspot location. After a 5-year simulation, which includes the river inputs, a seasonal pattern was identified, and it is shown that in the summer there is a higher marine coastal retention. On the basis of the Copernicus model, the Lagrangian modelling of surface ocean transport was validated with HF Radar surface currents and drifting buoys, also developed in the framework of the project. Satellite-tracked low-cost drifters were released both at sea and in the river mouths. In the same way, small wooden boats were launched into the sea from the boats of the project with the aim of knowing more about the dynamics of the currents on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The field data seem to show that the buoys released principally remained in the southeast of the Bay of Biscay and finally reached the coast.
The final output of this transport model is an operational tool that provides abundant risk maps showing abundant probability indexes. For this purpose, the coast was divided into ten areas and daily forecasts inform the cleaning vessels about the litter accumulation zones.
After the presentations, a time for open questions and answers began.
The first question from the floor was posed by Pilar Zorzo (President of the Spanish Marine Litter Association) about the work that is being done in the framework of LifeLEMA regarding the monitoring of microplastics in rivers. Oihane Cabezas (AZTI Research Centre) replied that currently microplastics are only being monitored in coastal areas, from 300 m to 6 miles.
Garbiñe Ayensa (INTECMAR) asked if regional authorities are interested in the tool developed in the LifeLEMA project and if it will be useful to carry out clean-ups. Vanessa Salvo (Surfrider Foundation Europe SFE, Life LEMA) recalled that local public administrations form part of the consortium; thus, the tool was built as a collaborative task with local authorities. Oihane Cabezas added that local authorities had been tackling marine litter in the area long before the project, but taking advantage of the project they have gained scientific knowledge and are more efficient. Litter collection has been improved and also, on a regional level, authorities have realized that it is necessary to tackle this problem.
Fuensanta Salas (European Commission Joint Research Centre, JRC) asked if member states are implementing these project results, in order to include them in the maritime strategies, to characterize the type, source and distribution of marine litter they find along the coast. Jesus Gago (Spanish Oceanographic Institute (IEO)) replied that with the CleanAtlantic project and the IEO, there is a direct link with Member States’ representatives, not only in Spain, but also in other countries of the project through institutions such as IFREMER (FR) or CEFAS (UK).
Marisa Fernández (CETMAR, CleanAtlantic project) added that Member State authorities with responsibility for marine litter are included on the CleanAtlantic advisory board, as well as the OSPAR Secretariat. There is a constant flow of information between the consortium and the advisory board and work is being developed in alignment with existing initiatives, trying to foster synergies and to avoid duplicating efforts. Vanessa Salvo also mentioned that LifeLEMA results have been shared with the European Commission. Pilar Zorzo pointed out that CEDEX (Ministry for the Ecological Transition) was in contact with LifeLEMA from the early beginning of the project to know the kind of results that will be generated.
Santiago Miranda (OceanCleaner Technology Company) asked about the technical issues related to the operation of drones and their interaction with the hull of boats. Jesús López Jiménez (ARDITI) replied that this is due to the presence of magnetic sensors and antennas in the ships, which must be deactivated to ensure the proper performance of drones.
Mateusz Benko (TEHRAN CONVENTION SECRETARIAT, UNEP ROE) posed a question about video monitoring technologies used in the LifeLEMA project and how precise these technologies are, whether results are available and the costs associated with their installation and maintenance. LifeLEMA representatives answered that it is a new development, so many challenges had to be faced. This tool can provide information about the item size but not about the type. To provide more technical and economic details they will contact other colleagues in charge of these tasks.
Regarding models’ performance, Marisa Férnandez asked Ramiro Neves how to use them to clearly guide intervention actions or clean-ups, and what additional knowledge we would require to use models in a reliable way. He noted that this is a matter of resolution; with a refined grid it is possible to get a good hydrodynamic resolution to forecast marine litter drift. In terms of collecting litter, this must be done near the coast so it is also necessary to simulate the fronts. Models represent a good contribution to identify marine litter hotspots, but results must be validated with a statistically representative number of drifters.
Regarding the future of drone technologies in the scope of marine litter, their applicability and use by competent authorities, Juan Pablo Pérez Gómez (Spanish Marine Litter Association, AEBAM) noted that drones are a platform to gather information and their use still presents some challenges and constraints. Data processing takes time and limits the capacity to obtain information quickly. Also, procedures to obtain legal permission are a complicated and time-consuming task.
Group at the end of Atlantic sessions