Plastic marine litter poses a growing threat to marine protected area (MPA) resources due to debris ingestion, entanglement, bioaccumulation, and changes to the integrity and function of habitats.

This study used a recently developed 2D Lagrangian model to assess and compare levels of marine plastic pollution in 6 Mediterranean MPAs: Natural Park of ses Salines d’Eivissa I Formentera, Nature Reserve of Bouches de Bonifacio, North-East Malta MPA, Specially Protected Area of Porto Cesareo, Community Importance Site of Torre Guaceto and Ethniko Thalassio Parko Alonnisou Voreion Sporadou.

The obtained results showed that the fluxes of plastic onto the selected MPA coastlines are relatively low in comparison with the average flux calculated over the Mediterranean during 2013-2017. Being the highest flux found in the coastline of Torre Guaceto MPA, which the authors attribute to a synergy of anthropogenic drivers that emit plastic and hydrodynamic transport that delivers pollution to the MPAs.

The authors highlight that shipping was identified as the main source of pollution for all studied MPAs and that plastic litter distribution is controlled primarily by sea surface kinematics (sea currents and waves).

It is stated that this model is applicable to any Mediterranean MPAs and offers methodology that can reveal anthropogenic drivers generating potentially negative effects.

It is concluded that the 6 selected MPAs are relatively sheltered from plastic pollution for the time being. It is however stated that this conclusion may change dramatically. The authors note that for other Mediterranean MPAs the question is still open and needs further studies.

Liubartseva et al. (2019) Are Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas sheltered from plastic pollution?Marine Pollution Bulletin 140:579-587.