What is Marine Debris?

Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world's ocean and waterways.


Marine debris or marine litter is defined as any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. It is a global problem, and it is an everyday problem. There is no part of the world left untouched by debris and its impacts. Marine debris is a threat to our environment, navigation safety, the economy, and human health. Most of all, marine debris is preventable. For more information on specific projects, visit the Marine Litter Network’s project map to learn more about initiatives on marine debris around the world


Honolulu Strategy

The Honolulu Strategy is a framework for a comprehensive and global effort to reduce the ecological, human health, and economic impacts of marine debris. You can find more information here. It is intended for use as a planning tool, common frame of reference for collaboration, and a monitoring tool on multiple levels—global, regional, national, and local—involving the full spectrum of civil society, government and intergovernmental organizations, and the private sector.

IMDC Historical Background 

In March 2011, the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference (5IMDC) was held in Honolulu, Hawaii in cooperation with NOAA, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other agencies and organizations. The conference brought over 450 participants from the marine debris community together to develop and create a document known as the Honolulu Strategy. All told there were 45 sessions with 213 oral presentations, 5 panels, and 65 poster presentations on issues ranging from the role of government, industry and consumer choice in preventing marine debris to community led coastal cleanups. Several sessions focused on the latest research in the field of marine debris and illustrated that the problem is pervasive, impacting all ocean areas.


Collectively, these sessions and the numerous plenary speakers highlighted the complexity of the marine debris challenge facing the international community. Many speakers highlighted the challenges surrounding the presence of plastics in the marine environment. Importantly, the conference drew attention to the detrimental and cascading impacts of debris to marine ecosystems and their biodiversity. 5IMDC proceedings are available here.