Officials from eight coastal cities in Japan and the Republic of Korea met in Busan, Republic of Korea, with representatives of the UN Environment Regional Seas Programme for the Northwest Pacific to explore ways of working together to protect their seas and coasts from marine litter.
The Regional Coordinating Unit of the UN Environment Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region (NOWPAP) was invited to the 18 September Korea-Japan Coastal Cities Marine Environment Meeting, organized by Republic of Korea’s Busan Metropolitan City to learn about Northwest Pacific Region’s decade-old experience in promoting cooperation among its member countries Japan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation in fighting marine litter.
Some 26 officials from the Korean coastal cities of Busan, Kyeongsangnam-do, All Ronan and Jeju, and Japan’s Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki Yamaguchi prefectures, took part.
The Regional Coordinating Unit briefed the meeting on the achievements of the Northwest Pacific Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter launched in 2008 and implemented by the four Northwest Pacific Region countries. They pointed out that the increasing trend of plastics production and use in the Northwest Pacific was a growing concern.
In a presentation to the meeting, the leading Korean civil society group Our Seas of East Asia Network (OSEAN) highlighted that quantities (count, weight and volume) of marine debris in Korean waters have significantly decreased over the past 10 years following the implementation of the government’s national plan of marine litter management.
“We will share know-how among ourselves on marine litter management and promote citizens' awareness through sharing of information and cooperation to resolve marine environmental problems facing coastal cities in the two countries," Mr. Bae Byung-cheol, Director General of Maritime Affairs at the Agriculture and Fisheries Bureau, Busan Metropolitan City, told the meeting.
The coastal cities at the Busan meeting agreed to implement the G20 action plan on marine litter and strengthen cooperation under the umbrella of the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting marine litter cooperative framework involving China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The governments of Japan and the Republic of Korea are implementing various initiatives to remove marine litter from beaches and coastal waters in the two countries. However, they are concerned about litter on the high seas shared by them. They are also aware of the need for international cooperation to address this, city officials told the meeting.
International cooperation is needed to tackle the growing problem of marine litter in the straits between Japan and Korea, which surveys show originates in China, Korea and Japan.
Between 2010 and 2017, coastal cities in Japan organized clean-up campaigns in 1,714 places with an estimated 602,274 participants collecting 3,549 metric tons of marine litter. During the same period, clean-up campaigns in 837 places in Korean coastal cities saw an estimated 160,389 participants removing 27,075 metric tons of marine litter.