Marine Protected Areas ‘just as polluted as many other beaches’

Public littering has been identified as the main source of plastic pollution in or near England’s Marine Protected Areas

The Big Zero report

Many Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK are just as polluted as other beaches without protected status.

That’s the suggestion from a new study led by the University of Exeter, which has found the level of plastic waste inside and outside MPAs to be equal, with the main source being traced to human littering.

Dr Sarah Nelm, University of Exeter, said: “Our work has found that MPAs, which often contain sensitive marine habitats and species, are exposed to litter much in the same way as non-protected sites.

“MPAs have no physical boundaries so, to protect them from any potential impacts of litter, we need to take a whole-system approach and reduce the overall amount of litter being released into the environment.

“We also need a coordinated approach that considers local nuances, tackling sources of litter that cause specific problems in certain areas.”

The study analysed 25 years of beach clean data by the Marine Conservation Society – the resulting report recommends ‘locally appropriate management’ to better address regional differences in waste accumulation.

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