Towards a global monitoring plan for the world oceans

Session Chairs: Francois Galgani, French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER); Thomas Maes, Center for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquatic Science (CEFAS) 

 This session is dedicated to scientists, stakeholders, institutions and managers to present and discuss their experience on large scale assessment of marine litter and propose solutions for a simple and efficient monitoring of marine litter in the world oceans.

 A global monitoring plan for marine litter could be an important component to provide a harmonized organizational framework for the collection of comparable monitoring data on marine litter from different regions. This will allow scientists to identify changes in marine litter concentrations over time, as well as identifying regional and global environmental transport mechanisms. It will also provide a tool to better assess the effectiveness of measures and actions taken within the frameworks of wider initiatives and policies, actions plans and global agreements.

Such a process will need various steps before a complete implementation. Data and information collection, including capacity-enhancement activities and the development of regional monitoring reports, will have to be organized, possibly under the responsibility of contracting parties or regional organizations of several UN Regions. This will need to be followed up by a group to better coordinate the implementation of the global monitoring plan and the consideration of a global monitoring report. Large scale monitoring has been already addressed nationally or internationally within different initiatives, processes or frameworks, such a MSFD, G7 or actions from large NGOs. These will need more coordination, support and strategy to optimize and rationalize the initiative.

To address this, to fill the knowledge gaps and propose a simple strategy for an harmonized monitoring the global ocean, this IMDC session will discuss and define a strategy for information gathering, including capacity building and establishment of strategic partnerships in order to fill the identified data gaps.


Quantification of Floating Marine Macro Litter

Session Chairs: Georg Hanke, European Commission Joint Research Centre Directorate D Sustainable Resources; Stefano Aliani, CNR-ISMAR, Institute of Marine Science, Italy

This session focuses on quantification of floating macro litter/debris at sea through development of harmonized approaches.

Floating Marine Macro Litter (debris) FMML has been spotted in all marine areas on the planet, sometimes with remarkable abundances. Its presence is posing an increasing thread to the marine environment and human activities. FMML has also direct negative impact on wildlife such as seabirds, fish, turtles and marine mammals through ingestion or entanglement. Through complex degradation processes floating macro litter is the source for secondary microparticles in the marine environment. Floating litter can end up on the sea shores, thus affecting tourism and animals on beaches.

The availability of georeferenced, detailed data of appropriate quality is of basic importance for tackling the marine litter problem, also because the proper assessment of the quantities of Litter and the relative distribution at sea provide the exposure information for risk assessments.

At present, information mainly rely on human visual sightings, but data from different groups or different geographic regions are often not comparable because a full harmonization of approaches is still lacking. Therefore, the use of agreed or comparable protocols, item lists and tools is the way forward towards the acquisition of data which can be used across regions for the deriving trends of litter pollution.

This session will present and discuss the current state of macrolitter monitoring to pave the way towards international agreed protocols. It will be a platform for the presentation of results from monitoring at different spatial scales and from different marine areas. It will thus provide information about levels and gradients of pollution and will propose examples of the currently-applied methodologies.


Tools and constraints in monitoring interactions between litter and megafauna

Session Chairs: Francoise Claro, Museum national d'Histoire naturelle (MNHN); Christina Fossi, Siena University; Denise Hardesty, CSIRO

This session focuses on monitoring opportunities and challenges for major marine taxa from the view of using marine fauna as ecological indicators of ocean and ecosystem health.

Monitoring the effects of marine litter in marine organisms is useful for the conservation of the marine environment as well as to understand the impact of marine litter on populations. Furthermore, it provides data to inform national or regional policies and can provide an important baseline for the establishment of new monitoring programs. However the feasibility of monitoring may be subjected to constraints such as the appropriate methodology, logistics, sanitation, regulations, etc., all of which may hinder the development and implementation of a monitoring program.

Because of their size and geographic distribution, and due to the preexistence of dedicated observation networks (stranding and rescue of marine mammals and turtles, fisheries observer campaigns etc.), several marine megafauna taxa are already used as ecological indicators of ecosystem health. Ingestion and entanglement are the most frequently observed types of interactions between anthropogenic debris and marine vertebrates. In addition to seabirds, sea turtles, are also good indicator species for monitoring the impact of litter ingestion, and there are several methods available for understanding the interactions between sea turtles and litter. In other cases, in particular cetaceans and sharks, research is ongoing or needed, in order to monitor and describe the direct (pathology, mortality) and indirect (physiological, ecotoxicological…) impact of interactions between these species and litter.

The technical session objectives are to: share lessons learned from existing monitoring initiatives at national and regional scales; share the results of recent research (new methods, evaluation of the exposure to litter, occurrence and effects of micro- and nano-scale plastics); discuss methods, indicators and technical tools (such as training), standardization and possible cooperation; identify knowledge gaps and tools required to understand the impact of anthropogenic debris on major marine taxa, identify practical recommendations to fulfil these gaps.


Marine debris monitoring programs: Applying data to answer research questions, advise management, and inform policy

Session Chairs: Kate Bimrose, NOAA Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary; Caitlin Wessel, NOAA Marine Debris Program 

This session will focus on real life application of marine debris monitoring data to inform management and policy, which will be of interest to a wide audience including resource managers, scientists, policy makers, and the public.

Marine debris is a global problem that impacts marine life, damages habitat, impedes navigation, impacts our economy, and is a risk to human health and safety. In order to address these issues we need to understand the sources, movement, and impact of debris along our coasts and in our marine environment. Development of marine debris monitoring programs seek to gain this understanding through the collection of debris data. These data can answer important research questions, such as what/where are marine debris source(s), are there depositional patterns, and what are the most common or most damaging types of marine debris. Answering such questions can then inform the development of management and policy strategies that address the problem of marine debris on a local, regional, and national/international scale.

Real life application of marine debris data is the focus of this session and should emphasize how sound science informs the sources, threats, and solutions surrounding the global problem of marine debris. Presentations should highlight findings from the analysis of marine debris monitoring program data, for example, interpreting data to demonstrate the behavior, abundance, movement and impacts related to marine debris. Presentations may demonstrate how data findings lead to the development of new management or policy strategies for agencies, campaigns, businesses, industry, and others.

Additionally, presentations may exhibit how monitoring program data can evaluate the effectiveness of existing marine debris related strategies, such as plastic bag bans, by tracking the presence of plastic bags within our oceans and coastlines overtime. Developing policies and management procedures is arguably one of the most effective means for truly reducing marine debris in our environment. Learning about how data leads to the development of new, or restructuring of existing, strategies highlights the importance of monitoring programs and will likely guide marine debris reduction and prevention strategies in order to protect the future of our marine resources.


Monitoring by the People for the People: Citizen Science and Marine Debris Solutions

Session Chairs: Hillary K Burgess, University of Washington; Sherry Lippiatt, NOAA Marine Debris Program

 This session will focus on best practices in citizen science for marine debris monitoring.

 With many potential benefits, from an engaged and informed community of participants, to generation of high quality high resolution data at scales that would otherwise be impossible, citizen science is a growing field that has applications to coastal and marine research and monitoring. How do we ensure that these benefits are realized within the increasing number of citizen science projects devoted to marine debris? This symposium will explore best practices and lessons-learned for citizen science, in particular marine debris citizen science, to achieve project goals that range from the personal (education, outreach) to the scientific (data and science generation that can inform solutions to environmental problems). Presentations in this session should draw from the experience of existing citizen science practitioners and researchers to make recommendations for program development and management. Topics to be considered include strategies for: participant recruitment, retention and communication; ensuring and measuring data quality; developing protocols and materials that facilitate data quality and learning; promoting and measuring learning outcomes; and data management and delivery.


Citizen data is the key to fighting "trash blindness"

Session Chair: John Rizzo, Let's Do It Foundation

 This session focuses on the fight against the population's "trash blindness" that can be fought through massive use of data -- more data, more accurate data, more timely data, more visualized data. This is most effective if collected and analyzed through citizen science, from people to people, and openly shared.

There is the potential interface with the Let's Do It Foundation open trash database platform. People could go into the field, enter data into the database, and then access the database and exchange data, and give feedback. Although many organizations have been collecting trash data for a long time, it is still not enough to tackle the problem. Most people still have "trash blindness" - they do not see the trash on the beach or on the street, and still do not believe or take any interest in the trash statistics.

There are three issues behind "trash blindness":

1) Data is collected and analyzed in a scientific way. Data and analysis results are not translated into the language that a person from the street can understand. The gap between professionals and public is so significant that it starts to erode the trust about science.

2) The significant lack of data is making the situation worse. If every fact can be disputed, even if people become interested in the information, they will soon be confused about what is right or wrong. People choose the easier way, they ignore every bit of the data.

3) Trash data that is collected by various agencies and NGO's around the world is not easily shared or accessible to other groups. The bits and pieces of information do not create the full picture, what the world's trash situation truly is.

There are also three ways to solve the problem:

1) Citizen science. The trust will be gained when scientists work together with citizens. Let's Do It Foundation has demonstrated that people are more interested when they participate in the collection and analysis of the data. The results are also more understandable, because they are translated into the non-scientific language.

2) Massive collection of the data with the help of public. Members of the general public are not always precise in describing data, but when the data is "crowd-sourced" on a large scale, the data is more accurate data and more up-to-date data. Empowering the citizens does miracles to the overall result. The consolidation of many different data sources also helps significantly.

3) An open trash database platform that is available for any organization to use. The goal is to bring various sets of data together, opening it up, making it comparable and analyzable, and creating the tools that everyone can use.


Opportunities, Considerations, and Challenges in Debris Monitoring within Coastal Environments

Session Chairs: Shelly Moore, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP); Holly Wyer, California Ocean Protection Council

This session will be informative for water quality managers, the regulated community, and NGOs who rely on debris monitoring to inform their policy positions; this session will cover monitoring methodologies that have been used to scientifically monitor for trash in the coastal environment, their challenges, and future opportunities to engage in trash monitoring.

In California, the State Water Resources Control Board in 2015 passed a regulation (the “Trash Amendments”) prohibiting the discharge of trash from stormwater systems into streams, rivers, lakes, and ocean. This regulation requires municipalities to either install full trash capture devices within their storm drain systems to limit trash making its way into receiving waters, or to establish an equivalent program.  An important component to measuring compliance is to accurately monitor trash in waterways. Most surveys of trash in California have been one-time events in various locations using different methodologies. Few regional surveys have been done that use similar methodologies and include training a wide variety of people and quality control measures.  One such study in Southern California, the Bight 13 Regional Trash and Debris Survey, was recently completed; however, methodologies used were largely leveraged off other programs (i.e. fish trawl, benthic infauna grabs, physical stream assessments) sampling designs and protocols. There is still a need to develop a suite of methodologies that can be used by a wide variety of stakeholders with different needs, management goals, and staffing capacities.

Although the new regulations require monitoring for certain types of compliance scenarios, they do not prescribe a particular methodology for monitoring, which has created a need for the development of scientific methods to monitor trash, larger than 5 mm, in receiving waters. Currently, there are no agreed upon and recommended standardized methodologies allowing for spatial and temporal comparisons on both local and regional scales. As the State looks toward determining the effectiveness of the new trash regulations, they will need to have data that not only serves as a baseline, but also allows for the comparison of the amounts of trash on both spatial and temporal levels to determine if they are decreasing. Additionally, trash monitoring in the marine environment has been going on for some time, and the information collected as part of these coastal monitoring efforts would ideally be comparable to the monitoring efforts that are ongoing in the ocean.

This session would discuss the work done to date on scientific methods to monitor for trash in coastal  California environments, including freshwater bodies that discharge to the ocean. This session would include information from those who have already been collecting trash data using a variety of traditional methods, and also those using cutting edge technologies, such as drones or fixed cameras. Scientific monitoring for trash in coastal waterways will provide us with a better picture of where trash discharge problems are originating on land, and lead us to a better understanding of where to focus efforts to prevent trash from entering our coastal environments. Coastal cities and towns throughout the world face similar challenges in limiting the amount of trash that reaches the local waterways from urban areas. Showing how California is addressing these challenges opens the conversation to a larger audience and provides a platform where ideas can be shared and investigated. 

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