Empowering Regional Collaboration: Addressing Marine Litter in East Asian Seas


Empowering Regional Collaboration: Addressing Marine Litter in East Asian Seas

Post-event update

Bangkok, 10 October 2023

Marine litter has become an escalating global concern, posing a significant threat to our environment and ecosystems. In East Asian Seas, where the marine environment is a crucial part of the region’s identity and economy, addressing this issue has become a top priority. A recent regional workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, shed light on the importance of advancing data analysis and data comparability in the East Asian Seas to tackle marine litter effectively.


The Regional Workshop on Marine Litter Monitoring was organized by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), in partnership with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), with support from the SEA circular and MA-RE – DESIGN projects brought together experts, stakeholders, and representatives from nine COBSEA participating countries. The goal was to discuss ways to harmonize marine litter monitoring efforts and empower the region to take collective action against plastic pollution and marine litter. The workshop saw the active participation of approximately 60 attendees from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam were represented in person, while China and the Republic of Korea joined virtually.

National Baseline Surveys and Capacity Building

In 2022, the SEA circular Project, in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), played a pivotal role in facilitating the national baseline surveys conducted in Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These surveys served as the cornerstone for establishing robust monitoring practices within the COBSEA countries. Moreover, the initiative also included training programs on marine litter monitoring methods, which were delivered both at regional and national levels. It becomes increasingly apparent that there is a rising demand for capacity building, with a specific emphasis on enhancing skills in data analysis and ensuring data comparability.

Key Highlights from the Workshop

The workshop provided a platform for experts to share insights and experiences. Notably, the importance of robust survey design and harmonized methods for effective plastic pollution and marine litter management was emphasized. It was revealed that structured surveys and metadata collection can enhance data collection from cleanup activities, including citizen science efforts.

Data Analysis: The Crucial Next Step

The importance of data analysis in the decision-making process was underscored. The workshop highlighted key steps for data analysis and measures to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and interventions. An approach known as the Before – After – Control – Impact (BACI) design was recommended. This design is particularly useful for examining changes in litter patterns before and after policy implementation, or in response to local changes.

Conclusions and Next Steps

To address marine litter effectively, harmonization, transparency, and data management are paramount. Countries are encouraged to collaborate, share resources, and promote transparency. The establishment of a secure regional monitoring data platform is on the horizon. COBSEA’s commitment to capacity building and regional cooperation is vital to address transboundary marine plastic pollution.


For information, contact Kamal Najmus Salehin, SEA circular Communication Specialist,

About SEA circular project

The SEA circular project – Reducing marine litter by addressing the management of the plastic value chain in Southeast Asia is implemented by the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with funding support from the Government of Sweden. SEA circular aims to reduce and prevent plastic pollution and its impact by working with governments, businesses, civil society, academia, and international partners. The initiative promotes market-based solutions and enabling policies to transform plastic value-chain management, strengthens the science base for informed decision making, creates outreach and awareness. The project leverages COBSEA’s regional mechanism to tackle the transboundary challenge of marine litter in a harmonized manner.

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