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  • Bringing neighbours closer

    Bringing neighbours closer

    Welcome to the Interreg V-A Latvia–Lithuania Programme 2014–2020!

    About the programme
  • Bringing neighbours closer

    Bringing neighbours closer

    Welcome to the Interreg V-A Latvia–Lithuania Programme 2014–2020!

  • Bringing neighbours closer

    Bringing neighbours closer

    Welcome to the Interreg V-A Latvia–Lithuania Programme 2014–2020!

LLI-525 Estimation, monitoring and reduction of plastic pollutants in Latvian-Lithuanian coastal area via innovative tools and awareness raising (ESMIC)

Project aims to develop a sustainable, cost-effective framework for plastic litter detection, monitoring and management in marine and coastal environments. Plastic litter is linked with negative economic, social and ecological consequences and common challenges related to plastic litter are complex: increasing amounts of microplastic, direct harm to the marine biodiversity and negative impacts on recreational activities. Absence of physical coastal borders between Latvia and Lithuania means that actions taken in one country might affect the other. Plastic that accumulates in algal wracks on the shore or in algal scum might be a target area for plastic pollution estimation and mitigation measures. The project aims to link remotely sensed features (Earth observation from space and drones) with marine plastic litter in such areas and suggest a joint and efficient approach for monitoring and management, which can be used by municipalities or national authorities in Lithuania and Latvia. Moreover, in relation with a single-use plastic ban from the year 2021 project aims to screen alternatives to replace single-use plastic, assess environmental, social and economical impact of marine litter pollution and it’s reduction; engage consumers, retailers, local municipalities, industry representatives, residents, environmental groups and tourism associations – to ensure broad support of a ban of single plastic use in coastal areas.

Social media and contacts:
Phone: +37046398858
E-mail: arunas.balciunas@apc.ku.lt
Website: www.ku.lt
Address: Herkaus Manto str. 84, LT-92294, Klaipėda, Lithuania

21 December 2022

On the snowy coast there are red lights flashing due to plastic litter

The winter images of the Baltic seashore might seem blindingly white, but the layer of snow covers the dark side of this beautiful sight – the environmentally damaging litter left behind or washed away by the waves. The quantities of litter found on Lithuanian beaches exceed the European standard which defines the good condition of beaches by a dozen to several dozen times over. The situation is no better in Latvia either.

Scientists from neighbouring countries have joined forces for the first time in confronting the plastic pollution problem. They are not just talking widely about the results of research carried out on the coast for the past two years, but have also prepared specific guidelines for municipalities, the catering and tourism businesses, and other sectors that would help to achieve positive changes.

Unified monitoring

Both Lithuanian and Latvian researchers have drawn attention to the problem of plastic pollution and have been carrying out studies and calculations for around a decade, highlighting the fact that single-use plastic products and their fragments dominate among the litter found on coastal stretches, while microplastics have long been dominant in the category of micro trash. “Still, there was no general monitoring system that would provide opportunities to have more clarity, compare data and look for the most appropriate solutions to the problem” noted Dr. Arunas Balčiūnas of the Maritime Research Institute of Klaipėda University (KU).

The Interreg V-A Latvia–Lithuania Cross Border Cooperation Programme 2014-2020 and project “ESMIC”
 (LLI-525 Estimation, monitoring and reduction of plastic pollutants in Latvian-Lithuanian coastal area via innovative tools and awareness raising) provided opportunities for researchers from neighbouring countries to work together. Klaipėda Science and Technology Park, Latvian Water Ecology Institute at Daugavpils University, Environmental Education Fund in Latvia (FEE Latvia) participated in the activities together with KU.

Innovative approach and methods

When scientists noticed that algae attract garbage and its fragments like a trap, monitoring their accumulation and emissions on the shore became an extremely significant activity of the project. In the implementation of the project, innovative methods were used – beach surveys with drones as well as the analysis of data collected by satellite systems. While processing them, the researchers also integrated artificial intelligence technologies to help model and map algae emissions. “We took, I would say, pioneering steps because in Europe we did not encounter stronger attempts to work on a project on plastic litter topic by combining all these tools,” a KU JTI researcher highlighted.

Consecutive observations were carried out for two years, during which time it was possible to identify the coastal stretches where algal wracks occur most frequently. In Lithuania, the areas in Klaipėda at the northern pier, as well as the northern beach of Šventoji, are exceptional in this regard. In Latvia, algal wracks were primarily recorded between Pape and Jūrmalciems, as well as in the north of the Ventspils pier and in the section between Jūrmala and Bigaunciems.

According to dr. Balčiūnas, it is potentially the first time that the composition of the abovementioned accumulations has been studied so carefully: “Research into garbage entangled in algae has been a kind of grey zone until now because it is quite difficult to carry them out.”

Microplastics are a macro-problem

The research revealed that there was significantly more litter in the algae than in the nearby receding beach sand – the numbers ranged from 2.7 to 6.4 times in the stretches studied. In this context, microplastics are a real ecological timebomb. These particles, which are smaller than 5 mm, are found in extremely large quantities in seaweed: 1 m³ of algae can contain from several tens of thousands to several hundreds of thousands of microplastic fragments. Being highly resistant and created from various chemical compounds, they pose a significant threat to living organisms.

According to scientists, society is already quite aware of the essential sources of plastic: disposable cutlery, packaging and decorations, certain cosmetics ‘rich’ in microplastics, and synthetic textiles. “However, sometimes we don’t even think about other forms of how plastic moves in cities and ecosystems. For example, the mountains of snow cleared from the streets absorb transport pollution, garbage, and microplastics, which melt and flow into the seas and oceans,” the scientist pointed out.

Algae management dilemmas

Bearing in mind the data obtained during the research carried out in Lithuania and Latvia, it is concluded that collecting algae could eliminate quite significant amounts of plastic and other garbage from the marine environment. However, there is no one answer – algae provide both food and shelter for certain species.

Once the decision to remove the algae from the shore has been made, certain dilemmas arise again. In some countries, it is a common practice to use these marine plants as mulch or dune reinforcement, but knowledge of the plastic and microplastics in such accumulations would potentially discourage this.

However, scientists tend to suggest removing algae that stay longer on beaches in the warm season to special sites or for burning. According to researchers, unmanaged algae can serve as a kind of incubator in which microorganisms dangerous to human health grow. It has been determined that three days is the limit for when algae should be removed from beaches visited by vacationers, otherwise, disease outbreaks are possible. The processes are especially intensified in warm weather, but even in autumn when, following stronger winds, people rush to look for amber in the algae wrack, the danger also remains. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to hand hygiene and to keep a closer eye on children when exploring the environment.

Balance of discipline and encouragement

While stressing the need to respond appropriately to algal emissions, researchers emphasize the importance of preventative actions to ensure that the sea and beaches stay clean. In December, scientists from Lithuania and Latvia presented an action plan prepared within the framework of the “ESMIC” project, which aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic products in the household, business or during recreational activities.

In preparing this package of tools, which will remain permanently available online, the researchers sought to draw attention to the fact that the involvement of different groups of society is necessary in order to achieve tangible change. “Beach clean-up events are great, but we need to be consistent. You see garbage – pick it up, think about it when buying and selling a souvenir, a product, wrapped in one way or another. The action plan identifies very specific areas and situations where we can and must be proactive in integrating alternatives to single-use plastics,” claimed Balčiūnas.

Coastal municipalities are able to create stricter frameworks for the use of single-use plastic through the mechanisms of issuing permits and licenses for catering, trade sectors, and organizers of major events. The implementation and promotion of the deposit system in bars, festivals, and more drinking water fountains or taps – would also significantly contribute to reducing the level of single-use plastics.

However, restrictions are not the only way of achieving this – it is also important to highlight those who bring about positive changes on their own initiative. Consequently, the “ESMIC” project initiated the “Conscious Choice” awards for organizations and individuals who contribute to the reduction of single-use plastic and educate the public through their activities and example. At the end of this year, the Latvians “Tiamo Grupa”, VšĮ Žemupite, a cafe-bar „Kuršis“ operating in Nida were honoured, along with Bronislava Butkutė, a resident of Šventoji town.

Covered by Euronews  

The “ESMIC” team highlights that municipalities, businesses and society do not ignore the problem of plastic – this was evidenced by the involvement of organizations in various events during which relevant information and good practices are shared, as well as cross-sectoral cooperation in the implementation of educational initiatives and exhibitions.

The “My Sea Campaign”, which was organized for the first time in Lithuania this autumn, invited people together with scientists to not only collect and count garbage on the beaches of Karkle, Melnragė, Šventoji and Palanga but also discuss environmental challenges and possible ways to solve them.

The fact that “ESMIC” responded to a truly relevant problem was not only evidenced by the attention of the national media, but also by the assessment of the project’s importance on an international scale – “Euronews TV” came to film the “My Sea Campaign” and was interested in the work of the researchers. The “Smart Regions” TV show created opportunities for Lithuanian and Latvian scientists to share their insights with an audience of 155 countries in seven languages.

Project ERDF financing: 382 138.64 Eur.

Partners: Klaipėda University, Klaipėda Science and Technology Park, Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology, Agency of Daugavpils University, Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) Latvia.

The Interreg V-A Latvia – Lithuania Cross Border Cooperation Programme 2014-2020.

More information:

Klaipėda University Marine Research Institute researcher Dr. Arunas Balčiūnas

Tel. + 370 46 39 87 36, e-mail Mr.arunas.balciunas@apc.ku.lt

https://latlit.eu/esmic/www.europa.eu

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21 December 2022

The final conference Baltic Sea and coastal health! took place in Klaipėda

The final conference of the project – Baltic Sea and coastal health! took place in Klaipėda, Lithuania. The program covered the most important aspects of the project and reflected the essential outputs: presentation of the model action plan for marine litter mitigation and stakeholder involvement, an overview of the remote sensing methods in beach wreck monitoring, and a discussion about plastic litter and its management related to the algal wreck.

CONSCIOUS CHOICE AWARDS winners were announced at the event: Tiamo grupa, NGO Ziemupite, Bronislava Butkutė and Cafe-bar „Kuršis“ will soon receive prizes and diplomas in recognition for their contribution to making the Baltic Sea cleaner, safer and with less plastic.

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6 December 2022

THE FOCUS OF THE FINAL ESMIC CONFERENCE: BALTIC SEA AND COASTAL HEALTH

The upcoming conference TOWARDS A HEALTHIER SEA: MARINE LITTER ISSUE will finalize two years of research and educational work of the project Esmic team. On December 13, 2022, scientists and specialists from other fields who assisted them will present the results and share their insights about what steps would be necessary to reduce pollution and move faster on the path of sustainability and ecological awareness. Special attention will be paid to the problem of single-use plastic and other garbage.

The conference TOWARDS A HEALTHIER SEA: MARINE LITTER ISSUE will be held at Klaipėda  University. Natural resources and their preservation are important both for the well-being of local residents of coastal cities and for tourism, so representatives of business, self-government, and public health are invited to actively participate in the event, as well as everyone who cares about the state of our sea and coastline.

Registration is already open: http://bit.ly/3GFxdN9

! Special message: during the event, the best business and public sector initiatives that contributed to reducing the use of single-use plastic implemented in Lithuania and Latvia will be awarded. You can submit nominations for the CONSCIOUS CHOICE AWARDS until December 10, 2022, by emailing erika@kmtp.lt (please provide a 5-10 sentence description, relevant link(s), photos/visualizations, and contacts of the nominee).

Key aspects of the program:
• Overview and results of the ESMIC project

• Experiences of My Sea Campaign and other beach initiatives
• Researchers – about the problem of the accumulation of single-use plastic products and other garbage on beaches and in algae washed ashore
• Acquaintance with remote research methods, which make it possible to observe Baltic Sea algae blooms and accumulations using satellites and drones
• Attention to possible microbiological threats caused by algae accumulations
• Intersectoral dialogue on the possible solutions
• CONSCIOUS CHOICE AWARDS

 

The detailed program will be announced soon. The language of the event is English.
The event is organized within the framework of the Interreg V-A Latvia-Lithuania Programme 2014-2020  project “ESMIC” (LLI-525 Estimation, monitoring, and reduction of plastic pollutants in the Latvian-Lithuanian coastal area via innovative tools and awareness).

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20 October 2022

Harmonizing microplastic monitoring in the LAT-LIT area

On a sunny yet quite windy day, representatives from ESMIC project partners and the Lithuanian environment protection agency participated in a field demonstration of microplastic sample collection. The hosts and Project partners from the Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology (LIAE) demonstrated and shared their knowledge on microplastic sampling in the open sea not only with the Klaipeda University but also with the Lithuanian Environment protection agency’s representatives.

As the weather conditions were not suitable for the open sea exercises, researchers were able to collect samples in the Daugava River while using Manta nets from Latvia and Lithuania. During this field demonstration, Lithuanian environment protection agency representatives, for the first time, were able to try out and witness field sample collection while using a Manta net. Now, this type of microplastic in the open sea sampling procedures can begin its way to be included in the Lithuanian environment protection agency’s Baltic Sea monitoring campaigns.

Sample treatment and further laboratory analysis methods were demonstrated in the LIAE laboratory. The exchange of practical knowledge and the building of closer cooperation between Latvian and Lithuanian Baltic Sea status surveying authorities is one of the key milestones in the ESMIC project. Most certainly, after these activities, we are a step closer to harmonizing microplastic monitoring in the LAT-LIT area and the whole Baltic Sea.

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28 September 2022

The final My Sea Campaign event took place

The final “My Sea Campaign Lietuvoje. Baltijos švara – mūsų rankose!” event took place in Šventoji! With the help of volunteers, 756 pieces of litter were found on a 100-meter beach stretch. The beach in Šventoji is several times wider than the previous locations of the campaign: Karklė, Palanga, and Melnragė I. This determined the fact that 0.09 pieces of litter were found here per square meter. In Klaipėda, 0.14 pcs. per square meter were found, in Karkle – 0.18 pcs., in Palanga – 0.18 pcs.

The amount of litter found in the algae wrack was 0.58 pcs./m2, which again confirmed the project’s hypothesis that the amount of litter in the algae wrack is higher than in the nearby sand.

On all the beaches, cigarette butts dominate the overall amount of litter; such is the case in Šventoji as well – 463 pcs. of cigarette butts were found.

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20 September 2022

ESMIC in the spotlight of the #EuronewsTV

My Sea Campaign in Palanga attracted not only a large audience of local people and tourists – but the event was also filmed by a team of journalists who came to Lithuania specifically to meet the ESMIC project.

Smart Regions at Euronews TV covers European projects with high added value for European citizens and for the planet. Smart Regions is distributed in 155 countries and 7 languages. For the 6th season of the show, the most interesting projects have been pre-selected, including ESMIC.

On a 100-meter-long section of the beach, the team and volunteers found  736 pieces of litter. This is the anti-record of the entire My See Campaign in Lithuania so far. On the same-sized stretch of beach in Karklė, 358 pieces of litter were found, and 344 pieces of litter in Melnragė I.

During the observation, there was no algae wrack found on the shore, so a comparison could not be made for the proportion of litter in this substance and in the nearby sand. However, the excellent weather allowed for presenting the remote sensing methods used in the project and discussing the problem of beach pollution.

More observations: 76% of all objects found was garbage made from artificial polymers. Plenty of cigarette butts (408 pieces were found).

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10 September 2022

My Sea Campaign in Karklė

The My Sea Campaign event on the beach of Karklė took place on the same day as the 19th science festival “Spaceship Earth” held in Klaipėda. Project ESMIC held environmental education lectures and practical sessions for schoolchildren, so the younger generation could get acquainted with the problem of litter polluting the marine environment, contribute to coastal pollution research, and see with their own eyes the microplastics in personal hygiene products.

During the My Sea Campaigns simultaneous observations, 358 pieces of litter were found on the Karklė beach in a section of about 100 m. Just to keep in mind, the limit defining Good Environmental Status is 20 units, so in Melnragė excess of 17 times was observed. So Karklė beach is not far behind, and on that day, GAB exceeded the target value by about 18 times.

About 0.6 pieces/m2 of litter were found in the algae accumulations, while about 0.18 pieces/m2 were found in the nearby beach sand. Yet another proof that there is several times more garbage polluting the beaches in the algae accumulations than in the nearby sand.

Some statistics:

87 percent of all found objects were polymer materials (plastics), most of which were single-use plastic products.

206 cigarette butts were found (~58% of found litter).

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4 September 2022

My Sea Campaign in Klaipėda

During the My Sea Campaign in Klaipėda, the good weather and washed-up algae allowed to demonstrate the research methods used in the ESMIC study to interested people.
Altogether 344 pieces of litter were found on the Melnragė beach in a section of about 100 m. during the simultaneous observations. The limit defining Good Environmental Status is 20 units, and the findings exceed it 17 times.
Approximately 0.38 pieces/m2 of litter were found in the algae deposits, while nearly 0.14 pieces/m2 were found in the sand of the nearby beach. Several times (2.5 times) more garbage pollutes the beaches in algae accumulations compared to the nearby sand. This result once again draws attention to one of the main messages of the ESMIC Project, that under favourable conditions, the utilization of algae accumulations can help reduce the pollution of the Baltic Sea by litter.
Some statistics:
* 93 per cent of all found objects were polymer materials (plastics), most of which were single-use plastic products;
* 136 cigarette butts were found (40% of found litter).

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12 August 2022

Big algae accumulations with plastic debris on Šventoji beach

This is how the northern part of Šventoji beach looked this week, where about 12 000 m2 of ​​algae accumulations and the plastic debris in them were brought up from the seabed. ESMIC team determined the size of the algae accumulation area using the Sentinel-2 satellite photos made on 2022-08-10.

 !! If you see a similar situation in other parts of the Lithuanian coast, please fill out this questionnaire:

https://www.questionpro.com/t/ASnIqZnBl3!

This way, you will help #ESMIC project researchers to gather information about plastic pollution on the beach.

We sincerely thank Bronė Butkutė ​​for her active involvement in informing us about the situation at Šventoji beach.

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7 June 2022

Successful involvement of students results in Master’s degrees

Two students were actively involved in the implementation of ESMIC project aims. Otilija Budrytė focused on “The Impact of Beach Wrack on Vibrio spp. Diversity and Abundance in the Lithuanian Baltic Sea Bathing Waters and Beach Sand ” Iveta Gečaitė provided insight on the “Impact of Macroalgae Wrack on the Water Quality of Lithuanian Baltic Sea Beaches.” We are happy to share the news that Otilija Budrytė and Iveta Gečaitė have successfully defended their thesis and obtained their Master’s degrees.
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13 May 2022

Inter-project cooperation with Interreg South Baltic Programmes project INCONE60

Progress of the LLI-525 Estimation, monitoring and reduction of plastic pollutants in Latvian-Lithuanian coastal area via innovative tools and awareness raising (ESMIC) project was presented by dr. Arūnas Balčiūnas on the final conference of the South Baltic Programmes project Inland Blue Transport Connector E60 (INCONE60) “FINAL PROJECT CONFERENCE „PROSPECTS FOR SMALL SOUTH BALTIC PORTS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE BLUE ECONOMY“.

 

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16 April 2022

Keeping up with Esmic

PhD student Greta Kalvaitienė gave a presentation on the wrack accumulation effect on the microbial water quality on the Lithuanian Baltic Sea coast at the traditional “Thursday seminar” at the Marine Research Institute of Klaipėda University. The traditional event provided a great opportunity for presenting results of the Esmic project to the Lithuanian partners’ network while at the same time creating a platform for valuable insights exchange betwean the participants of the seminar.

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29 March 2022

Third Esmic meeting in Liepaja

The first live meeting this year took place in beautiful Liepaja on 28th March. Project partners shared all the important updates on the project. Main milestones were presented and future tasks were discussed. 

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5 December 2021

Drones and satellites will be used to study plastic pollution in the Baltic Sea

Consumer trends and the closed nature of the Baltic Sea are making the problem of plastic pollution in water more and more acute. Drones and satellite information will be used to more effectively identify areas of concern on the Lithuanian and Latvian coasts. After analyzing it, scientists will present their proposals for innovative pollution management measures.

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Project ESMIC was focused on two objectives: To increase integration and efficiency of environmental resource management in marine and coastal environment and Foster cooperation among stakeholders of all levels. In order to achieve these objectives certain key activities were planned to be implemented during the Project duration. It was decided to split the Project activities in three key branches: awareness raising, work with local stakeholders and knowledge exchange.

In order to reach the local stakeholders two workshops and surveys were organised in Latvia and Lithuania to attract decision makers, businesses and service providers and build a marine environment pollution with a single use plastics mitigation network. Despite the interference during the COVID-19 pandemic it can be stated that all coastal municipalities within the Programme area have participated in ESMIC organised or attended events, be it a local workshop, public exhibitions and discussion, the FORUM “Single-use plastic in Lithuanian and Latvian coastal areas: challenges and solutions”, Final ESMIC Project conference “TOWARDS A HEALTHIER SEA: MARINE LITTER ISSUE”.

Since the marine environment pollution with plastics is a relatively new scientific topic it was necessary to decide on the suitable methods to monitor and extract data on the pollution levels in the Latvian and Lithuanian coasts and waters. It should be noted that LAT-LIT programme gave a perfect opportunity for the first time to collaborate on the marine litter issues between Latvian and Lithuanian scientific and environment monitoring institutions (LIAE, KU and Lithuanian EPA). Additionally remote sensing techniques were presented and actively performed to the Latvian representatives and for the first time Lithuanian EPA members could learn on the open sea monitoring techniques for surveying micro plastics. The gathered knowledge was communicated to the all levels of the ESMIC target groups.

During the ESMIC project implementation period, while executing field testing and data gathering an “Implementation guideline of plastic litter monitoring and management related to algal wracks/scums“ was prepared. The most important outcome while preparing this document was the active cooperation between Latvian and Lithuanian scientific institutions and marine environment monitoring authorities. Despite final conclusions on the necessity to still work on harmonising monitoring methodologies, several key milestones were reach in unifying marine litter and especially micro plastic surveying. A clear outcome related to the ESMIC Project is that the Lithuanian EPA have used the Manta net to monitor micro plastics for the first time, which will be later implemented when preparing the national Baltic Sea and Curonian lagoon monitoring programme.

The links to the Projects key Outputs:

  • https://2014-2020.latlit.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/T1.1-Framework-to-improve-and-integrate-plastic-litter-monitoring-and-management-solutions-in-natural-territories-1.pdf
  • https://2014-2020.latlit.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/T1.2-Guidelines-for-cost-effective-estimation-monitoring-and-reduction-measures-of-plastic-litter-and-its-associated-hazards-from-coastal-and-marine-environment-2.pdf
  • https://2014-2020.latlit.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/T2.1-Developed-and-improved-joint-cooperation-for-clean-environment-by-engaging-the-stakeholders-2.pdf

It is without a doubt that a stronger marine environment protection and sustainable business development agenda was formed after the EMSIC project. Despite direct obligations to form single use plastic and marine litter oriented network, the active links between the local business and authorities are clear and evident in reduction and an alternative search for the single use plastic items, which is becoming more evident. Furthermore a close cooperation between Lithuanian NGO “Už šavarią Lietuvą” and Klaipeda University during the ESMIC project sparked an idea to organise the “Lets save the Baltic Sea” expedition (2024), where also FEE representatives are invited to join.

The greatest benefit of the Project is hard to measure, however the gained knowledge and practical skills, also the increase in confidence on using ESMIC Project described techniques is most beneficial to Lithuanian EPA and Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology, which is responsible for performing the Baltic Sea water monitoring under the Latvia Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development umbrella. Local municipalities have increased their knowledge and saw the possible pollution mitigation and avoidance measures described/presented during the ESMIC activities and in the Model Action Plan for marine litter mitigation. SME, Infrastructure and (public) service providers, Interest groups, general public, etc. were reminded or informed with the marine litter issue and possible mitigation measures. The scientific community gathered plenty of data and ideas for analysis and future research.

 

 

 

Last updated: 28.05.2024 23:14