There are a number of international agreements which either directly or indirectly address the issue of marine litter. Together they include various aspects of controlling the input of litter from a variety of sources including shipping, fishing, the dumping of wastes at sea, and inputs from human activities on land. They are listed as follows:
International Maritime Organisation—MARPOL 73/78 Annexe V;
the London Convention (1972);
the Convention on Migratory Species;
the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes;
Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan;
the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities;
the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Jakarta Mandate;
FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (abandoned/lost fishing gear), and;
Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), a multidisciplinary body of independent experts nominated by sponsoring organisations to provide advice on pollution and litter.
The Oslo and Paris (OSPAR) Convention has a litter programme which looks at the problem of litter in the north-east Atlantic and is currently investigating how it might be addressed.
Litter has been set out as one of the 11 descriptors of good environmental status (GES) under the EU marine strategy framework directive (MSFD). Member states will be required to assess whether properties and quantities of marine litter are causing harm to the coastal and marine environment and to introduce measures where relevant.