General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Marine pollution

The marine environment is affected by contamination in many different forms, such as toxic chemicals (e.g. organic compounds, pharmaceuticals, gas), solid waste (e.g. plastics), increased nutrients (e.g. nitrates, phosphates) and sediment inputs due to human activities (e.g. industry, agriculture, aquaculture), radioactivity, oil spills, and discarded fishing gear.  

Marine contamination – also called marine pollution – changes the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the oceans and coastal zones, threatening marine biodiversity, and affecting the quality and productivity of marine ecosystems. The ultimate effect of pollution on marine resources depends on the form, intensity and location of the contamination, with some marine environments, ecosystems and species being more sensitive than others.  

The GFCM focuses its interventions on the following sources of pollution: 

  • Underwater noise generated by human activities at sea, including fisheries, which could be a threat to cetaceans but also to several fish species as recent findings say.
  • Marine litter (plastics in particular), which has negative environmental and socio-economic impacts on fisheries
  • Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) 


  • Study of the impacts of underwater noise on fish resources implemented in selected subregional case studies in collaboration with OceanCare. 
  • Collection of quantitative and qualitative data on macro-litter material, including through on-board observations and according to standard methodologies
  • Assistance in the building and testing of a dedicated fishing gear to collect marine litter, in support of ‘fish-for-litter’ initiatives, and in the active participation of fishers in marine litter mitigation. 
  • Reduction in levels of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear through the marking of fishing gear




  • Recommendation GFCM/42/2018/11 on the regional marking of fishing gear (EN | FR)