Session Chairs: Eben Schwartz, California Coastal Commission, Nicholas Mallos, Ocean Conservancy

This session will inform individuals, organizations, and decision makers on the value of leveraging partnerships and collective expertise to achieve progress on marine debris solutions.

 The marine debris community is filled with silos in which various forms of work, such as research, education, and advocacy, may ultimately inform one another but generally advance independently. There are various efforts underway to break through those barriers to allow for greater collaboration and cross-cutting work. These efforts have met with some success: the International Coastal Cleanup, for example, has been underway for more than three decades, and has shown the power and promise of working together towards a single goal—keeping trash off beaches and out of waterways and the ocean.

Other efforts, such as the West Coast Marine Debris Alliance, have also enjoyed some success, such as the publication of a West Coast Marine Debris Strategy that has helped inspire local action, but have also demonstrated some of the challenges associated with cross-cutting and cross-political boundary efforts. Still others, such as the Surfrider Foundation, combine a global perspective and national campaigns with a focus on local chapters undertaking projects within communities. This session will examine these and other efforts designed to increase and promote regional and international partnerships to better coordinate marine debris work, share resources and best practices, avoid duplication of effort (increasingly important in a world of diminishing financial resources), and move the marine debris community forward in a collaborative, informed fashion.




32-years of Community: The International Coastal Cleanup

presenting: Nicholas Mallos (Ocean Conservancy, United States); authors: Nicholas Mallos (Ocean Conservancy, United States), Allison Schutes (Ocean Conservancy)

In 1986, Ocean Conservancy launched the International Coastal Cleanup (Cleanup), an annual day of action through which volunteers around the globe mobilize to remove trash from beaches and inland waterways. Since the Cleanup’s inception, more than 12 million volunteers have removed in excess of 100 million kilograms of debris while amassing a global database of more than 230 million individual items of trash. Beyond debris removal, the Cleanup has created an unparalleled point of entry for educating people about the crisis of ocean plastics. The foundation on which the Cleanup operates is a global network of national and international Coordinators that oversee cleanups throughout their respective countries and geographies; simply put, without this community of extraordinary individuals the Cleanup could not exist. Because at the heart of it, the Cleanup is about community; it’s about coming together and helping our neighbors rid beaches and waterways of trash, or stepping up in the wake of natural disasters to coordinate local response efforts. Time and time again–for more than three decades–the reach, expertise, and dedication of the global Cleanup community has proven what the power of collective action in achieving impact and change.


The Global Ghost Gear Initiative – a global multi-stakeholder alliance working together to address the problem of lost, abandoned and otherwise discarded fishing gear at scale.

presenting: Ingrid Giskes (World Animal Protection – Head of Campaign, Sea Change, Australia); authors: Ingrid Giskes (World Animal Protection – Head of Campaign, Sea Change, Australia)

In 2015, World Animal Protection (WAP) launched the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), after an extensive consultation process that highlighted that cross-sectoral global collaboration was a necessary approach to combat ghost gear. The GGGI brings together a critical diverse group of 12 Governments and 63 stakeholders comprised of private sector, seafood and fishing industry, researchers, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The GGGI has a global approach and reach yet a local and regional application; and drives change through its collective impact model. Its mission is to improve the health of marine ecosystems, to protect marine animals from harm and too safeguard human health and livelihoods through its working groups. Two of its flagship pieces of work – the creation of a global data portal, synthesizing data on the problem of ghost gear worldwide; and the Best Practise Framework, a practical guidance document for the management of fishing gear – have a global applicability. However, prior to their inception, they have benefitted from locally run consultation processes to increase implementation, usability and ultimately uptake. The GGGI also coordinates holistic solution projects in local ghost gear hotspots, bringing together relevant GGGI partners. Projects are reviewed by a cross-sectoral review board and the GGGI Steering Group to ensure that they are sustainable, scalable, and also include elements of embedding best practice and collating data. In my presentation, I will highlight how the GGGI was established and build as an alliance over the last 3 years and how we have managed to make an impact both at local and regional level through our global approach, while also ensuring uptake of data and solutions in the policy arena.


The Heavy Load: Addressing Creosote and Large Debris in the Salish Sea of Washington State

presenting: Chris Robertson (Washington State Department of Natural Resources, United States); authors: Chris Robertson (Washington State Department of Natural Resources, United States)

Remnant creosote treated wood products and other large marine debris are major contributing factors to decreased ecosystem health within the Salish Sea. The wood preservative creosote is a known carcinogen and a significant source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). These chemicals persist in sediments and lead to increased forage fish spawn mortality. PAH impacts are amplified through bioaccumulation and directly impact native salmon runs and resident Orca Whales. There is an estimated 650,000 gallons of creosote currently leaching from the remaining 16,000 creosote treated pilings. The hazardous and technical nature of removing creosote logs and large debris does not lend itself to the capabilities of most state and local agencies, community groups, NGO’s, and other volunteer-based removal efforts.

In response, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Aquatic Lands Restoration Program has developed a program to partner with these groups and eradicate creosote from the Salish Sea while providing rapid response and removal of large debris. Through a broad network of partnerships, specialized equipment, and training, the DNR has become the lead entity for creosote and large debris removal and disposal throughout the state. Since 2004, the DNR has developed Best Management Practices for removal by land, sea, and air. To date, the program has removed over 52 million pounds of marine debris and 296,922 sq. /ft. of overwater structures. With an estimated 35 million pounds of creosote remaining in the ecosystem, the DNR is exploring new technology and partnerships to reach new shoreline property owners and respond to reports of debris from the public.


Implementing a Volunteer-led Rapid Response Marine Debris Protocol in Oregon

presenting: Briana Goodwin (Surfrider Foundation, United States); authors: Briana Goodwin (Surfrider Foundation, United States), Charlie Plybon (Surfrider Foundation)

A focused strategy in response to marine debris events yields a significantly higher impact for debris removal than the traditional “scheduled” cleanup. Surfrider Foundation, with support from NOAA, developed and implemented a marine debris rapid response protocol for Oregon in 2014. In the inaugural year, volunteers and chapters conducted 17 rapid response cleanups, the majority of which were initiated by requests from Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). There were six marine debris rapid response requests, five of which were performed with one cleanup event and one that required 12 cleanups.

For each of the rapid response events, data was collected in accordance with NOAA’s Marine Debris Survey Card and a “Rapid Response Form” was utilized in partnership with OPRD to track and plan the cleanup event. Response forms also contain links to photo albums and web posts of the cleanup events as well as additional narrative and reference information. Data collected from these debris events in sensitive habitats help us better understand geographic and oceanographic trends in debris accumulation, thus supporting improved strategies for targeting future cleanup efforts.

Several lessons were learned during the implementation of this program. Due to the nature of volunteer lead cleanups and the requisite scheduling (largely on weekends) as well as coordinating with multiple agencies’ staff in sensitive areas requiring their presence and/or special permitting, the strategies of organizing cleanups through a rapid protocol continues to evolve. We continue to streamline our communications and work with agency staff to improve scheduling and efficiency of response.


The West Coast Marine Debris Alliance – the Successes and Challenges of Regional Partnerships

presenting: Eben Schwartz (California Coastal Commission, United States); authors: Eben Schwartz (California Coastal Commission, United States)

The West Coast Marine Debris Alliance (the Alliance) has gone through several iterations since it was first launched in the fall of 2008. Originally conceived as an “Action Coordination Team,” one of eight topic-specific groups called for by the West Coast Governor’s Agreement on Ocean Health (signed by the Governors of California, Oregon, and Washington in 2006), the group was tasked with developing coordinated priorities and work plans for the marine debris community across the West Coast. A team of representatives from the three states, representing government, academia, industry, tribes, and the NGO community, was assembled to work collaboratively toward a unified approach to tackling marine debris – a first for the region and a well-intentioned effort to learn from one another and work more productively towards common goals.

The Alliance worked effectively for a number of years, as funding from both the Governors’ Agreement and NOAA’s Marine Debris Program allowed for the group to meet for three workshops, develop a west coast-wide strategy for tackling marine debris, and even launch an ambitious database meant to collect and synthesize data from the broad range of data collection methods in use across the three states, among other accomplishments. However, as support for the Governors’ Agreement eroded at the state level and funding dried up, the Alliance has seen its effectiveness slip, its programmatic achievements dwindle, and its role reduced to a still-vital platform for communication among its members during monthly conference calls. The successes and challenges of the Marine Debris Alliance provide both a road map and a warning sign about the possibilities and promise of creating and sustaining a regional organization of groups dedicated to working collectively.


Building the global community of practice: Lessons from five years of the MarineDebris.Info discussion list

presenting: John Davis (MarineDebris.Info, a project of OCTO, United States); authors: John Davis (MarineDebris.Info, a project of OCTO, United States), Nick Wehner (MarineDebris.Info, a project of OCTO)

Launched in 2012, MarineDebris.Info (MDI) is the online community of practice on research, management, and prevention of marine litter. The MDI discussion list has over 500 member posts a year, and MDI webinars average 300 registrants per event – the most of any webinar series in ocean conservation. MDI is where the world’s marine litter researchers, managers, and activists gather online to share knowledge and strategies.

This presentation will cover:

  • Examples of collaborations and cross-cutting work facilitated by MDI
  • Trends in how the community is sharing knowledge
  • Tipping points in the growth of the MDI community
  • Plan for the next five years of promoting partnerships and moving the community forward

MarineDebris.Info is coordinated by OCTO (octogroup.org). OCTO specializes in building robust online communities of practice for ocean professionals. In the past year more than 75,000 practitioners used OCTO’s services, which include MarineDebris.Info, OpenChannels.org, MPA News, Marine Ecosystems and Management, the EBM Tools Network, and more. OCTO regularly partners on its projects with other institutions including NOAA, UNESCO, UN Environment, IUCN, the West Coast Marine Debris Alliance, and the University of Washington.