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History of the International Marine Debris Conference (IMDC)

The International on Marine Debris Conference (IMDC) is the premier global event dedicated to understanding and promoting action to address marine debris, or marine litter. This important conference series was first convened in 1984 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with NOAA hosting the next several IMDCs.

In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joined NOAA to co-host the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference (5IMDC), and continues to be involved to this day. Held in Honolulu, Hawaii, the conference brought together over 450 participants from the marine debris community to develop and create a document known as the Honolulu Strategy- a landmark framework for a comprehensive and global effort to reduce the ecological, human health, and economic impacts of marine debris.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.

In 2018, the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference (6IMDC) saw more than 700 attendees from over 50 countries gather to share lessons learned, promote international dialogue, exchange ideas and discuss research methods and results. The 6IMDC brought together the global community dedicated to working towards a marine debris-free ocean. The conference aimed to celebrate and encourage further innovation, collaboration, and action around this far-reaching topic. The conference highlighted innovative marine debris solutions, research, and technological advances since the 5IMDC, and facilitated discussions around strategies to minimize the impacts and occurrence of marine debris. A major strength of the conference was its diversity of disciplines and expertise, including science, art, outreach, and education from individuals representing government, academia, private industry, community groups, and many more.

The 7th IMDC in 2022 was the first time this conference was held outside of the United States, with the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries joining UNEP as co-host of the event and NOAA offering technical support alongside the Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM). The 7IMDC brought together over 1000 participants from 89 countries and from all sectors, including academia, NGOs, governments, and the private sector. Over 100 technical sessions hosted nearly 600 abstract presentations, and over 200 posters were displayed at the conference too.

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.