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«Marine Litter»: TAP and CoNISMa Work Together to Protect the Beaches of Salento

07 December 2017

Lecce, Italy. CoNISMa (the National Interuniversity Consortium for Marine Sciences) completed a six-month study of marine litter in Salento. The research aims to protect the beaches and raise awareness on the issue of marine litter. TAP supported the initiative on the basis of an agreement signed in 2016. 

The programme (coordinated by the Local Research Unit of CoNISMa, in Lecce) has analysed the marine litter (ML) deposited on about 20 km of the eastern coast of Salento, between San Cataldo and Torre dell’Orso. The four beaches monitored belong to the municipalities of Vernole and Melendugno: Le Cesine Nord, Le Cesine Sud, San Basilio, and Torre dell’Orso.

The research team selected a beach stretch of 100 meters as a sampling unit. Each beach was sampled in three different areas. The operators, involved in the collection of all items present on the sampled areas, worked during two periods (February - March and May - June 2017).

Key study findings:

  • The total number of items found and collected is 16,951 during the first period and 7,262 during the second period; the estimated amount of marine litter along the coast is about 40 tonnes between February and March and 10 tonnes during May and June.
  • Considering the nature of the marine litter collected, the team noticed the dominance of plastic / polystyrene items, while the second most representative category of litter is wood, followed by metals and glass.
  • Most of the marine litter found is not local but periodically deposited by the sea, transported by currents and winds. The main sources of ML are naval traffic and fishing activities. Additionally, tourism, restaurants and bathing also affect the coast.


As part of the study, the CoNISMa team also conducted a survey of marine litter submerged on the sea bottom. Through a series of off-shore site inspections, the study concluded that abandoned nets in the sea contribute to the formation of large fishing tangles, which are very dangerous for the natural environment and particularly for animals.

On the other hand, the considerable amounts of natural wood found on the beach represents a precious resource: beach plants combined with the wood can be recycled and used in order to save the coast from erosion and restore the dunes.

In parallel with the collection of litter and laboratory activities, CoNISMa involved primary and middle schools students to inform them about the negative consequences of marine litter and the tools aimed to counteract this problem.

This preliminary study phase has provided a reliable set of data on the actual waste on Salento beaches. The findings will be used to calibrate the following stages of the programme (management and removal of marine litter), that TAP will support in 2018.

The Marine Litter programme is part of the social and environmental investment (SEI) which TAP is voluntarily implementing across its host countries. TAP’s SEI programme in Italy amounts to €12 million and focuses on livelihoods, with an emphasis on the tourism, agriculture and fisheries; environmental management, with an emphasis on issues linked to tourism, agriculture and the marine environment; and community quality of life, with an emphasis on services and infrastructure.