Marine litter

Marine litter is a global problem which poses an increasing threat to human health and safety, ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods. The Northern Ireland Marine Litter Strategy is a co-ordinated response which aims to address the problem at a local level by reducing the levels of litter entering the sea and removing litter which is already there.

News – Ban on Microbeads in rinse off cosmetic products

In accordance with Article 32(3) of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, DAERA published a notice in the Belfast Gazette of 6 July 2018 advising that the draft Environmental Protection (Microbeads) Regulations 2018 are available for inspection from either:

The draft Environmental Protection (Microbeads) Regulations 2018 will ban the manufacture and sale of rinse off cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads. The legislation is expected to commence on 1 October 2018.

DAERA welcomes comments on the draft legislation. Please note that representations/comments must be made in writing to either:

  •; or
  • The Marine Strategy and Licensing Team, First Floor, Klondyke Building, Gasworks Business Park, Belfast, BT7 2JA.

The closing date for receipt of representations is 10th August 2018. Please note that representations received after this date will not be considered.

Unexploded Munitions shell
Unexploded Munitions shell
Alert – Ammunition is on our shore

The UK disposed of weapons at Beaufort Dyke, a trench between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Since the 1990s, almost 200 shells, incendiaries and phosphorus flares have been washed up. Phosphorus flares are stable in water, but when they dry out, they fume and spontaneous combustion follows. If you see anything you suspect might be ammunition DO NOT touch it and call the police immediately.

Marine Litter Strategy

The Northern Ireland Marine Litter Strategy contains measures designed to change attitudes and behaviour towards littering. This will be done through education, adequate provision of bins, fining offenders and collecting data on the extent of the problem. 

Marine and Fisheries Division’s role in implementation includes on-going communication with stakeholders through face-to-face meetings and this website. Support will be provided and best practice shared among stakeholders, whilst keeping track of implementation and reporting on progress.

We are currently reviewing the Marine Litter Strategy and have undertaken a partner survey to seek views on how the Strategy could be improved on to deliver more than just a sum of its parts.

European measures

The European Union is part of the international commitment to reduce marine litter significantly by 2025. As a result Descriptor 10 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires Member States to implement measures to ensure that litter is at levels where the “properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environments”. For more information see the European Commission website.

Marine litter data

Accurate and reliable data is essential to properly manage and assess the levels of litter present in the marine environment. Data is needed to inform policy development and to evaluate progress towards meeting policy and legislative commitments such as achieving good environmental status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Voluntary and community organisations

The Marine Litter Strategy is being implemented through partnerships between public, private and voluntary and community organisations.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful (KNIB)

Since 2012 Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful (KNIB) have produced the Marine Litter Survey on behalf of the Department. Fourteen reference beaches are systematically surveyed using the internationally adopted OSPAR survey methodology. 

The Marine Litter Report 2017 was published in February 2018. The Report summarises the key findings of quarterly surveys of marine litter found on ten reference beaches around Northern Ireland. The data was collected between September 2012 and October 2017.

Marine Conservation Society

The Marine Conservation Society uses volunteers to undertake an annual survey of beach litter over a single weekend “Beachwatch Big Weekend”. Details of how you can become involved and reports from previous years are available from their website:


Here you can download a range of material on the subject of marine litter. These include a newsletter, information leaflet and card, as well as other relevant information.

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