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EMODnet Human Activities » News » Links between dredge spoil dumping and the marine environment

Links between dredge spoil dumping and the marine environment

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Dredge spoil refers to unconsolidated, randomly mixed sediments composed of rock, soil, or shell materials extracted and deposited during dredging and dumping activities.  Dredge spoils lie unconformably upon natural, undisturbed soil and can form anthropogenic landforms – dredge spoil bank.

Significant amounts of spoil are created by the dredging for navigation, and to create new or enlarge existing channel, port, marina and boat harbour areas. Dredging for engineering purposes, to create trenches for pipes, cables, immersed tube tunnels, to remove material unsuitable for foundations and to remove overburden for aggregate are also contributors for generated dredge spoil. Dredge spoil, although sometimes used for local land reclamation or deposited on land, is most often deposited at sea.

In the past, spoil was frequently dumped in coastal and ocean waters based on the assumption that marine waters had an unlimited capacity to mix and disperse wastes, while paying little attention to the negative impacts of disposal of dredge spoil on the marine environment.

Dredge MaterialOver the years, the negative effects of depositing dredge spoil at sea – such as interference with fisheries activities or contamination of ecosystems — have been increasingly recognized. An early attempt to address the problem was the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter of 1972, known as the London Convention, one of the first international agreements for the protection of the marine environment from human activities. Other acts and regulations followed, such as the Oslo Convention, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and OSPAR guidelines, which specify best environmental practice for managing dredged material, with the newest version adopted in 2014. Nowadays, national authorities of many countries have selected dumping zones where those negative consequences would be minimised.

The EMODnet team has recognised the importance of collecting and presenting accurate and updated data with dredge spoil dumping zones as a part of Human Activities. Fragmented data for dredge spoil zones, collected from national sources and international organisation, are available for Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, France, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Norway. Some countries have not been covered yet, mainly in the Black and Adriatic Sea basins.

Dredge Map

In light of important and strong links with environmental impacts from dredging activities, the Human Activities team continues to collect and update existing data on dredge spoil disposed in the EU sea basins, thereby making such information available to all interested stakeholders.

The information and views set out in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Commission. Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on the European Commission's behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information therein.

February 15th, 2018 | Written by

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