Scientific results

Scientific Paper Portfolio

This deliverable aims to present and give access in a consistent manner to CleanSea project research scientific results, which have been or are about to be published as scientific papers in peer reviewed journals.

During the three years of the project, 11 papers have been published in a series of journals covering both natural and social sciences findings. This number increases as to the planned publications as a good number of results are being consolidated at the end of the project life. There are already 12 scientific papers either on the pipeline, under review or under development. More results are expected to come available through publications in the near future.

The document presents first the overall picture through two tables devoted to published papers or those under development. Later on the document introduces each paper through a summary sheet including more in-depth information, the project abstract and a link to the publication when available.

All and all the intention is to provide structured, easy and clear access to the wealth of knowledge generated by the project.


Results per project components

Characterisation of marine litter in four EU marine regions and its impacts on marine organisms

Testing indicators for biological impacts of microplastics

One of the aims of the CleanSea project task is to provide fundamental scientific knowledge on the scale and nature of the physical and chemical impacts of marine litter, and in particular microplastics, on exemplar marine organisms and the predicted consequences for populations and communities. We aim to determine the impact of this type of marine litter on population-relevant fitness parameters and energy budgets in key species, with a focus on the base of the marine food web. In CleanSea, the main species under study include algae, bacteria, invertebrates such as zooplankton, sponges, echinoderms, bivalves and crustaceans, as well as fish and birds. Here we present a summary update on progress on determining the ecological harm of microplastics and discuss important aspects of indicator species selection that Member States will be confronted with when implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

ILVO-CleanSea master thesis on Impact of microplastic uptake: contamination in sprat and microplastic-mediated uptake of PAHs by European shore crab.

Master thesis submitted for the partial fulfilment of the title of Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation.

Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO)

Tools, Innovation and Applications: Monitoring, Remediation, Fragmentation and Modelling

Developing a transport model for plastic distribution in the North Sea

E-proceedings of the 36th IAHR World Congress, 28 June – 3 July, 2015, The Hague, the Netherlands 

The present study aims to improve the knowledge regarding the distribution and possible accumulation of plastic litter in the North Sea. This research demonstrates that modelling can provide a regional or global overview and aid in identifying monitoring questions.

Hyperspectral imaging and data analysis for detecting and determining plastic contamination in seawater filtrates

Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy

One possible way of monitoring plastic particles in sea water is by imaging spectroscopic measurements on filtrates. The idea is that filters from seawater sampling can be imaged in many wavelengths and that a multivariate data analysis can give information on (1) spatial location of plastic material on the filter and (2) composition of the plastic materials. This paper reports on simulated samples with spiked reference plastic particles, and real seawater filtrates containing microplastic pollutants. These real samples were previously identified through visual examination in a microscope. The samples were imaged using three different imaging systems. The different wavelength ranges were 375–970nm, 960–1662nm and 1000–2500nm. Data files from all three imaging systems were analysed by hyperspectral image analysis. The method using the wavelength span 1000–2500nm was shown to be the most applicable to this specific type of samples and gave a 100% particle recognition on reference plastic, above 300 µm and an 84% pixel recognition on household polyethylene plastic. When applied to environmental samples the technique showed an increase in identified particles compared with visual investigations. These initial tests indicate a potential underestimation of microplastics in environmental samples. This is the first study to demonstrate that hyperspectral imaging techniques can be used to study microplastics down to 300µm, which is a common size limit used in microplastic surveys.

Socio-economic impacts of marine litter and barriers to Good Environmental Status

The social costs of marine litter along European coasts

Ocean & Coastal Management 138 (2017) 38-49

This is the first study to assess the social costs of marine debris washed ashore and litter left behind by beach visitors along different European coasts. Three identical surveys, including a discrete choice experiment, are implemented at six beaches along different European coastlines: the Mediterranean Sea in Greece, the Black Sea in Bulgaria and the North Sea in the Netherlands. Beach visitors are asked for their experiences with beach litter and their willingness to volunteer in beach clean-up programs and their willingness to pay an entrance fee or increase in local tax to clean up marine litter. Significant differences are found between countries. This has important implications for the size and transferability of the estimated social costs of marine litter across Europe.

Policy brief: Best practice examples of existing economic policy instruments and potential new economic policy instruments to reduce marine litter and eliminate barriers to GES

The main objective is to provide a critical review and assessment of potential measures to reduce marine litter. This brief focuses on existing economic instruments implemented in Europe. It points critical factors which influence the appropriateness and effectiveness of economic instruments. It also shows where the scope of current economic instruments could be expanded to explore their capacity to reduce marine litter. Such an evaluation of existing economic instruments to reduce marine litter is essential to furthering the necessary steps to achieve GES and sustainable marine ecosystem management.

Socio-Economic Assessment of the Costs of Marine Litter

Four case studies about socioeconomic costs of marine litter are presented in this project task, each using a different research methodology. However, within every single case study where possible the same research methodology was used across different European member states to enable cross-country comparisons. The four case studies and their main outcome are summarized below.

Driving forces behind marine litter generation in European regional seas


Overcoming institutional barriers to Good Environmental Status with management measures and policy options to reduce marine litter

Summary of Marine Litter Policy Options

CleanSea project developed a portfolio of policy options for the relevant authorities in the four EU marine regions: the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Baltic Sea and North-East Atlantic Ocean. The resulting policy options aim to prevent and reduce marine litter and, in particular, to support the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive  (MSFD). They include not only those measures and practices that can be implemented quickly within the first MSFD cycle (before 2018), but also longer-term options to address structural gaps and shortcomings in the policy framework and institutional set-up.

Best practices for marine litter reduction in the EU

CleanSea partners catalogued and evaluated the potential of voluntary institutional arrangements, understood here as good and best practices, in reducing marine litter in the four European regional seas. Good practices were defined in this study as those arrangements that have proven to be effective in delivering a contribution to marine litter reduction. Best practices were defined in this study as those good practices that demonstrate social, technological and/or institutional innovation in a specific category of the waste hierarchy. Understanding good and best practices and their conditions for success can help Europeans achieve litter-free seas.

Institutional and legal gaps and barriers to prevent reduce and clean up marine litter

Integration, Synthesis and Road map to Good Environmental Status

Engaging European Stakeholders in the CleanSea Project for Mutual Learning and Policy Recommendations

In the CleanSea Project, stakeholder engagement was practiced in order to ensure societal relevance of the research, and hence to guarantee a more effective uptake of research results. This was achieved by mutual information exchange between stakeholders and researchers, with stakeholders, as potential end-users of the project’s results being invited to contribute to research results either by providing or validating information. In terms of researcher-stakeholder interactions, a mixed strategy was applied in the CleanSea Project, including workshops, conference sessions, formal or informal meetings and interviews. The present executive summary, however, mainly focuses on the eight workshops and three conference sessions carried out in the different regional seas (i.e. Black Sea/Bulgaria, Mediterranean Sea/Spain, North Sea/Netherlands and Baltic Sea/Germany).

Madrid workshop: Stakeholder insights into the most adequate and effective measures on key marine litter items

(only in Spanish)

El Centro Mediterráneo EUCC organizó en Madrid el 17 de noviembre de 2015 un taller en el que se presentaron resultados del proyecto y se trabajó participativamente en medidas apropiadas para la reducción de basuras marinas. El evento contó con la colaboración con la División para la Protección del Mar del el Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente.

Venice workshop: Stakeholder insights into the most adequate and effective measures on key marine litter items

This participatory workshop/roundtable aimed at gathering insight from the stakeholders participating in the conference on the adequacy of policy options and implementation aspects of measures to address specific marine litter items in the Mediterranean area.