Analysis from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) shows that 44% of marine pollution comes from the land, 33% from atmospheric transmission, 12% from vessels, 10% from ocean dumping, and 1% from ocean construction. The EPA has been conducting marine pollution prevention and control by planning, guiding, supervising, and implementing various strategies and measures. Furthermore, the Marine Pollution Control Act ( 海洋污染防治法 ) was formulated based on the international Convention on the Law of the Sea, and announced on 1 November 2000. The Act was then revised on 4 June 2014. The authorities responsible for its implementation are the EPA in the central government and city/ county/municipal governments at local levels. The Coast Guard is in charge of cracking down on illegal activities, collecting relevant evidence, and referring the violations.
Marine pollution control via monitoring and law enforcement
The EPA strives to increase the effectiveness of emergency response measures against major oil pollution incidents in marine environments. Based on the Major Marine Pollution Incident Emergency Response Plan ( 重大海洋油污染緊急應變計畫 ) approved by the Executive Yuan, responses fall into three main categories, as follows:
A. Scientifically monitoring marine pollution
To protect the marine environment, the EPA has been promoting pollution controls as well as strengthening the legal framework. Various technologies are skillfully used to effectively monitor all types of pollution sources to help reduce pollution at its sources and to inspect for illegal activities. These technologies include remote satellite sensing, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), oil spill detecting radar monitoring vehicles, and oil and chemical pollution dispersion simulation models.
B. Response to marine pollution incidents
The EPA regularly enhances its response capacities to oil pollution incidents by better utilizing technology, integrating resources via information systems, and advising local governments on being better equipped and prepared. Once a pollution incident occurs, the EPA supervises and coordinates responsible central and local authorities under the Major Marine Pollution Incident Emergency Response Plan. This ensures that response measures are thoroughly carried out at all levels and emergencies are properly handled.
The characteristics and quantities of the oil need to be taken into account during oil spill incidents in the ocean. Spill locations, the surrounding marine environment, and oceanic and meteorological conditions must be considered to evaluate the scales of potentially impacted areas and further determine how the marine environment and ecosystem may be affected.
C. Marine waste cleanup and plastic-free ocean campaign
Marine waste mostly comes from solid garbage disposed on land and coastal areas, and greatly impact the seabed ecosystem. Thus, the EPA formulated the Floating Trash Disposal Program ( 海漂垃圾處理方案 ) to implement at-source controls of marine waste and to organize beach and ocean cleanups.
There search conducted by the Society of Wilderness on the components of ocean waste in 2015 showed that plastic waste comprises 90% of it. To reduce plastic waste in the oceans, in 2016 the EPA tightened relevant policies by limiting and reducing the use of plastics at their sources. On 13 February 2018, the Action Plan of Marine Debris Governance in Taiwan (臺灣海洋廢棄物治理行動方案) was announced by the EPA, accompanied by representatives from NGOs concerned about marine environmental preservation, the National Museum of Marine Science & Technology, and others from academia. The details include a total ban by 2030 on single-use plastics such as shopping bags, utensils, beverage containers, and straws. The Action Program is also working on banning plastic straws starting in 2019, to make Taiwan the first country to limit the use of plastic straws.
Central and local governments mobilized to clean up oceans
Cleanups of garbage on the ocean bottom are carried out by divers, while waste on beaches is regularly cleaned up by local governments under the EPA’s supervision. In 2016, Taitung County, Kinmen County, Pingtung County, and Lienchiang County received subsidies to conduct marine waste cleanup projects. This resulted in more than 400 metric tons of garbage from the ocean bottom and beaches being collected, including 480 metric tons of recyclable materials. In addition, 25 sessions on marine environmental education were held. The EPA hopes that with the combined efforts and resources of governments and the public, the marine environment and resources will be better protected.
The EPA continued to subsidize local governments to carry out marine waste cleanup projects in 2017. Nineteen coastal counties and cities were mobilized to organize a nationwide event on World Oceans Day on 8 June, which included waste cleanups and marine environmental education. An environmental fleet has been assembled as well. To deal with random dumping, vessels such as fishing boats, yachts, whale-watching boats, ferries, as well as the public, fishermen, and boat owners are encouraged to bring back and properly dispose of waste produced during sightseeing, leisure, and fishing activities.
As part of improving coastal and marine environments of offshore islands, the EPA also provides subsidies for relevant projects to Kinmen and Lienchiang Counties, as floating waste originating from China affects these islands. The subsidies assist them to better carry out coastal environment maintenance, floating and bottom trash cleanups, waste transfers and recycling.
Taiwan is located in the midst of many international shipping lanes, with thousands of containers and vessels sailing through its waters every day. In response to this, the EPA will keep on strengthening marine pollution control measures and monitoring the marine environment according to the Marine Pollution Control Act. While monitoring pollution sources with the latest technology, the EPA will also actively promote the pollution emergency response mechanism and increase the effectiveness of control measures. Other efforts will include continuous marine waste cleanups and at-source waste reduction to protect the marine environment.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)