Bringing the Ocean to Society
9 Aug 2019
Mediterranean is Europe’s most polluted sea
New study from EurOcean Member Ifremer presents new figures about a long-lasting problem.

According to a study by the French Institute for Sea Research and Exploration (Ifremer), the Mediterranean Sea is the most polluted European sea. Two hundred thousand tons of plastic is dumped each year, representing more than 60 percent of all the trash we find at the bottom of the sea.

Ifremer published on 24 July a study on marine litter monitoring in the Mediterranean between 1994 and 2017. The conclusion is clear: the Mediterranean is the most polluted sea in Europe.

According to the report, the amount of marine waste has been steadily increasing. "In the 1990s, garbage density fluctuated around 100 waste per km2," says Olivia Gérigny, a researcher at Ifremer Centre in Toulon and author of the study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. "Since 2012, this density has increased to about 200 waste per km2. In 2015 we reached a maximum of almost 300 waste. Plastic represents over 60% of this waste."

According to the researcher, this increase may be explained by the increase in plastic production in the same period, as well as the larger number of studies developed.

No other sea in Europe is so polluted

"In a North Sea comparative study, annual densities remained below 50 residues per km2, which is the minimum values ​​found here," explains researcher Olivia Gérigny.

Every year two hundred thousand tons of plastics are discharged in the Mediterranean, according to Ifremer. Pollution sources are many: commercial or recreational navigation, fishing, aquaculture, landfills, industrial or urban areas.

France is the largest producer of plastic waste in the region. On 7 June, the NGO WWF published a report on plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the same report, France, the leading economic power in the Mediterranean, accounted for some 11,200 tonnes of unloaded plastic in the Mediterranean in 2016.

The report also pointed out that France is the largest producer of plastic waste in the region among the 22 countries bordering the Mediterranean.

In 2016, 4.5 million tons of plastic were produced, representing approximately 66.6 kg per person, according to the NGO. However, France is not the most polluting country as it manages to recycle 98% of the plastic produced, WWF justifies. At the top of the ranking are Egypt, Turkey and Italy.