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Related Legal Instruments on Marine Litter Activity
in the NOWPAP Region

( last update: 2010-09-28)

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 as modified by the Protocol 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL) is the most important global treaty for the prevention of pollution from the operation of ships. The convention currently includes six technical Annexes, in particular Annex V dealing with different types of garbage from ships that prohibits disposal of all plastics and requires parties to provide reception facilities for the disposal of the wastes.

The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matters (London Convention 1972) is an international treaty limiting the discharge of wastes that are generated on land and disposed of at sea. In particular, plastics and other persistent synthetic materials are prohibited for dumping. The 1996 Protocol is a separate agreement that modernized and updated the London Convention. The protocol entered into force in March 2006 and will eventually replace the London Convention.

Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention) is the world's most comprehensive environmental agreement for controlling the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes. It also developed the criteria for "environmentally sound management" of hazardous and other wastes. Any hazardous marine litter from land-based sources would fall under the scope of the Convention. Some non-hazardous marine litter could be considered as wastes requiring special consideration.

The Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, adopted in 1995, identified nine pollutant source categories and marine litter is one of them.

National laws on marine litter activity:

According to the NOWPAP regional overview on legal instruments, institutional arrangements and programmes related to marine litter, the four NOWPAP member states have all established a comprehensive set of laws and regulations to address the general environmental issues including control and management of marine litter.

Understanding that marine litter should be further addressed by national laws and regulations with measures to prevent, reduce, and control the waste discharge from all sources, the NOWPAP member states have undertaken activities in the recent years including:

  • To reinforce the implementation and enforcement of the existing national legal instruments;
  • To comply with marine litter-related international conventions and agreements with clear responsibility of the specific governing authority;
  • To integrate marine litter into the national legislation on solid waste management;
  • To strengthen institutional arrangement in dealing with environmental issues including marine litter.

People's Republic of China:

  • In China, more than 30 laws and regulations are found relevant to marine environment and environmental protection. Among which, 16 laws and regulations are obviously related to marine litter management.
  • The Environmental Protection Law (supervision and management of the environmental protection throughout the country).
  • Marine Environment Protection Law (MEPL, adopted in 1982 and amended in 1999) aims to supervise the nationwide marine environment protection, conserve marine resources, prevent pollution, safeguard human health and promote economic and social development. These two laws guide the national practice for marine environmental protection.
  • Recent years through 2006-2009, China has revised and approved several domestic laws and regulations related to the marine litter management, such as Regulations on Prevention of Marine Environmental Pollution by Marine Construction Projects (adopted in 2006); Regulations on Prevention of the Marine Environmental Pollution by the Coastal Construction (adopted in 2007); and Revision of the Law on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution (amended and put into force in June 2008).


  • Japan governs its oceans through a series of sectoral ocean policies, and most of its strategies, policies and plans stem from the Basic Environmental Law (1993) which forms the basic structure of Japanese environmental laws and policies. It declares the basic principles of Japan for environmental policy, defines the responsibilities of each actor in the society, and prescribes the policy instruments to protect the domestic and global environment.
  • The Basic Act of Japan on Ocean Policy was approved in 2007. Under this law, the government shall establish the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy in order to implement measures on marine issues in comprehensive and planned manners.
  • There are other major national legislations related to marine litter management, such as Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law (Effective date: 25 December 1970; revised on 02 June 2006), Cabinet Order of Waste Management and Public Law (Effective date: 24 September 1971; revised on 31 March 2006), Law on the Prevention of Marine Pollution and Maritime Disaster (Effective date: 25 February 1970; revised on 19 May 2004 and 30 March 2007), Seacoast Law (Effective date: 12 May 1956; revised on 08 February 2004), and Port and Harbor Law (Effective date: 31 May 1950; revised on 07 June 2006).

Republic of Korea:

  • In the Republic of Korea, Marine Environment Management Act (MEMA) came into force in January 2008 after the revision of Marine Pollution Prevention Act. Since January 2009, a Marine Litter Management Plan (the Plan) was developed based on MEMA and implemented.
  • The Plan aims at establishing an advanced national marine litter management system and has four strategies: (1) preventing litter from entering seas; (2) strengthening the removal and treatment capacity; (3) improving management system; and (4) encouraging public participation while promoting international cooperation. Specifically, the four strategies and 12 projects have been developed (Chart 1). As a national action plan on marine litter (NAP MALI), this plan will contribute significantly to the effectiveness of Korea's marine litter management system.

Russian Federation:

  • In the Russian Federation, under the Primorsky Kray Governor, an inter-departmental cooperation commission was established in 2005 to protect the southern Primorsky Kray coastal areas (known as the hot spot of marine litter in the Russian Far East).
  • The commission consists of representatives of the Federal and local environmental protection agencies, major water users, state administration of sea ports and navy.
  • According to programmes known as "Clean Primorsky Kray" and "Clean Port", a Law of Primorsky Kray on Solid Waste Management is currently under development and expected to be approved in the late 2009 by Primorsky Governor.
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