Work to reduce marine plastic pollution from ships

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is working to reduce the loss and discharge of fishing gear into the sea.

Plastic pollution from ships  

The IMO is the United Nations specialised agency responsible for addressing ship-sourced marine pollution. The IMO uses the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to control pollution from ships globally.  

Annex V of MARPOL has global regulations that prevent pollution from ship-sourced garbage. These regulations apply to all ships and cover plastics and fishing gear.  

Amongst other things, MARPOL Annex V requires ships to:  

  • not discharge plastic into the sea  
  • report lost and discharged fishing gear if it poses a 'significant threat to the marine environment or navigation'.

Ships must report losses to:  

  • the ship’s administration
  • the coastal state where the loss or discharge occurred.  

Australia is a Party to MARPOL and implements Annex V through:  

Most Australian states and territories also apply MARPOL Annex V in their legislation.  

New IMO actions to address marine plastic pollution  

In 2018, the IMO adopted an Action Plan to Address Marine Plastic Litter from Ships. The Action Plan lists actions the IMO can take to reduce plastic litter from ships to protect the marine environment, human health, tourism, fisheries and shipping.  

The Action Plan aims to:  

  • enhance existing MARPOL regulations
  • introduce new measures to reduce marine plastic litter from ships.  

Two of the actions in the IMO Action Plan concern fishing gear and consider:  

  • introducing mandatory marking of fishing gear1
  • extending the reporting of all losses and discharges of fishing gear to collect global IMO data on discharged and lost fishing gear2.

Work is underway on these global requirements. See our highlights of discussions at the IMO on this issue, or visit the IMO website for details.  


(1) Action 2 from the IMO Action Plan: consider making mandatory, through an appropriate IMO instrument (e.g., MARPOL Annex V), the marking of fishing gear in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).  

(2) Action 22 from the IMO Action Plan: consider extending the reporting requirement in regulation 10.6 of MARPOL Annex V to include reporting data on the discharge or loss of fishing gear by the flag State to IMO via the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) or other means if appropriate.