Pollution (EO 9)

Common Indicator 19: Occurrence, origin (where possible), extent of acute pollution events (e.g. slicks from oil, oil products and hazardous substances), and their impact on biota affected by this pollution

Geographical scale of the assessment:
Regional, Mediterranean Sea
Contributing countries:
Mediterranean assessment based on existing regional surveys, research and publications
Mid-Term Strategy (MTS) Core Theme:
1-Land and Sea Based Pollution
Ecological Objective:
Ecological Objective 9 (EO9) – Pollution: Contaminants cause no significant impact on coastal and marine ecosystems and human health
IMAP Common Indicator:
Common Indicator 19: Occurrence, origin (where possible), extent of acute pollution events (e.g. slicks from oil, oil products and hazardous substances), and their impact on biota affected by this pollution (EO9)
Indicator Assessment Factsheet Code:

GES Definition: Occurrence of acute pollution events are reduced to the minimum.  

GES Targets:

  • Pressure: Decreasing trend in the occurrences of acute pollution events



Increasing shipping and maritime activities are important drivers for anthropogenic pressure on the marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea.  Pressure from maritime transport includes potential chemical pollution from oil and Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS), dumping of garbage at sea, release of sewage, biofouling and non-indigenous species introduction.  As documented in a great number of scientific researches, chemical pollution by oil and other harmful substances has impacts on water, seabed, fauna and flora.

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Assessment methods

Assessment of accidents. In the Mediterranean region, under the 2002 Prevention and Emergency Protocol, the assessment of occurrences, origins and extents of oil and HNS pollution from ships is carried out on the basis of pollution reports (POLREP) sent by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention to REMPEC and other affected States to notify a pollution or an event that could result in a pollution.  These reports provide details on the incidents, including the position, extent, characteristics, sources and cause, trajectory of pollution, the forecast and likely impacts, as well as sea state and meteorological information.

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Results and Status, including trends

On the one hand, statistical data analyses indicate a significant downward trend in accidental pollution from ships, for both oil and HNS.  This decrease can also be seen both in the number of accidents causing these pollutions and in the volumes of pollutants discharged at sea.  On the other hand, the same observation cannot be made with regard to illicit discharges from ships.  There is no sufficient data to identify an upward or downward trend, but based on 2016 data provided by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), it can be argued that a significant number of illegal releases are still occurring.

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The rates of accidents have gone down globally and regionally despite the increase in shipping transportation and it can be concluded that the impact of the international regulatory framework adopted through the IMO as well as technical cooperation activities undertaken at regional level is very positive, especially as far as prevention of accidental pollution is concerned.  However, risks associated with the transport by ships of oil and HNS with possible harmful consequences on biota and ecosystems cannot be completely eliminated, especially in vulnerable areas such as the Mediterranean Sea.  In addition, efforts have to be made to strengthen monitoring and reporting of illicit discharges from ships.

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Key messages

  • Chronic sources (illicit discharges) of pollution into the marine environment from ships are the principal target for pollution reduction, as the trends for acute pollution (accidents) are controlled and decreasing.

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