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.




Citizen science: divers survey marine debris on the seabed of the Israeli Mediterranean coast

presenting: Galia Pasternak (a Department of Maritime Civilizations, The Leon H. Charney School for Marine Sciences, University of Haifa,, Israel); authors: Galia Pasternak (a Department of Maritime Civilizations, The Leon H. Charney School for Marine Sciences, University of Haifa,, Israel), Boaz Mayzel (The Israeli Diving Federation), Sarah Ohayon (The society for the protection of nature in Israel), Christine Ribic (US Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Public participation in scientific research, citizen science (CS), has long been used to tackle research questions that would otherwise not have been addressed due to lack of resources, time or geography. Marine debris survey programs worldwide is a good example of information collection relying on CS. In 2015, the first author teamed with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and The Israeli Diving Federation to establish the divers’ volunteer program “Mishmar Hayam” (Sea Guard), which supports marine conservation through citizen science. From March 2016 – July 2017, 11 surveys were conducted in seven different sites in the northern part of Israel. Additional data was collected during 20 supervised underwater cleanups. Surveys found that plastic was the most common material on the seafloor, up to 84% of the items. Debris at four sites was primarily fishing-related debris and all the sites are used for recreational fishing, suggesting that most debris originates from the adjacent coast. The information collected by the divers will help document the extent of marine debris along the Israeli coast, and is crucial to understanding debris sources and finding solutions for the problem


Assessment of seabed litter in the Northern and Central Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean) over six years

presenting: Pierluigi Strafella (National Research Council of Italy – Institute of Marine Science, Italy); authors: Pierluigi Strafella (National Research Council of Italy – Institute of Marine Science, Italy), Sasa Raicevich (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA), Loc. Brondolo, 30015 Chioggia, Italy), Anna Nora Tassetti (Istituto di Scienze Marine (ISMAR), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), L.go Fiera della Pesca, 2, 60125 Ancona, Italy), Alessandra Spagnolo (Istituto di Scienze Marine (ISMAR), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), L.go Fiera della Pesca, 2, 60125 Ancona, Italy), Giuseppe Scarcella (Istituto di Scienze Marine (ISMAR))

Temporal and spatial occurrence of anthropogenic debris on the seabed is much less investigated in respect to the sea surface and shores, due to sampling difficulties and costs. However, detecting marine benthic litter is fundamental for developing policies aimed at achieving the Good Environmental Status (GES) in European Seas by 2020, as requested by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

In this context, this study aimed to estimate seafloor litter abundance, composition, spatial distribution and main sources in the North-Central Adriatic Sea (GSA 17) over a six-year period. It represents the longest data set available on this issue up to date in the basin.

The sampling area has a surface of 36,742 km2 and extends from the Italian coast to the 12 mn limit of the Croatian national waters. Six surveys were conducted in fall from 2011 to 2016 and 67 stations were sampled each year, distributed over the area following a depth-stratified random design (0-30 m; 31-50 m; 51-100 m).

Litter items were collected using a ‘‘rapido’’ trawl, a modified beam trawl commonly used by the Italian fishermen to catch benthic species. Marine litter in the catches was classified in 6 major categories (plastic, metal, glass, rubber, wood, other). Plastic was dominant in terms of weight. The highest concentration of litter was found close to the coast likely due to high coastal urbanization, river inflow, extensive navigation and the morphological-hydrological features of the basin.

These data provide useful information to implement necessary measures to manage marine litter in order to minimize this type of anthropogenic pollution in the Adriatic region. The systematic monitoring of marine litter, on regional scale, may be also useful to evaluate the effectiveness of national and international regulations.


Accumulation and distribution of marine debris on barrier islands across the northern Gulf of Mexico

presenting: Katie Swanson (Mission Aransas NERR, United States); authors: Katie Swanson (Mission Aransas NERR, United States), Caitlin Wessel (Dauphin Island Sea Lab), Tracy Weatherall (Mission Aransas NERR), Just Cebrian (Dauphin Island Sea Lab)

Marine debris is an economic, environmental, human health and aesthetic problem posing a complex challenge to communities around the globe. Coastal communities specifically are among the most seriously impacted with increased expenses for beach cleaning, public health and waste disposal issues, as well as a loss of income from decreased tourism. To better document this problem we monitored the occurrence and accumulation rate of marine debris at 43 sites on 9 barrier islands from North Padre Island, TX to Santa Rosa, FL. Surveys were conducted using the NOAA Marine Debris Shoreline Survey Guide and consisted of 100m-long transects along the shoreline extending from the water edge to the upland shoreline limit. All debris larger than 5 mm, including cigarette butts, was collected and sorted by material type and placed into predetermined categories. Each category was counted and measured for dry mass. With this information we are investigating three specific questions: (1) what are the major types and possible sources (land or ocean based) of shoreline debris; (2) does the rate of debris deposition onto the shoreline show seasonal oscillations; and (3) how does debris deposition change from east to west in the nGoM? Over the two-year study period several trends emerged. Greater amounts and different types of trash consistently washed up on the ocean side compared to the sound side of islands, suggesting the debris washed onto nGOM shorelines from the ocean containing a combination of ocean and land-based sources. A significant increase in the amount of debris collected on the shoreline during tourist/boating season (May to September). In addition, we observed a drastic increase in the amount of trash at the western nGoM sites, with accumulation rates more than 10x greater in Texas.


Quantifying debris type and the spatial and temporal trends in marine debris density in coastal waters of the 4-island region of Maui, Hawaii

presenting: Jens Currie (Pacific Whale Foundation, United States); authors: Jens Currie (Pacific Whale Foundation, United States), Stephanie Stack (Pacific Whale Foundation), Jessica McCordic (Pacific Whale Foundation), Gregory Kaufman (Pacific Whale Foundation)

The 4-island region of Maui, Hawaii lies within a protected marine sanctuary where recreation, tourism, and marine species coexist. Located within the subtropical convergence zone, the Hawaiian archipelago is subject to high debris loads, receiving in excess of 52 metric tons/year. Here we present the first study to determine the spatial and temporal trends of debris density within the Maui 4-island region. Line transect surveys were conducted from April 2013 to September 2017 and all floating debris encountered were collected and photographed. From Maui’s leeward waters 2,097 items were removed, of which 89% were plastic. The majority of debris (84%) could not be identified as originating from land or ocean based sources, however, of the items that could be sourced, 5% originated from land and 11% originated from ocean. Results from these surveys found temporal and spatial trends in debris densities; indicating a relationship between environmental factors and local trade winds and eddies. Biofouling was present on 70% of the collected items, of which nine items contained species not native to Hawaiian waters. Foreign writing allowed for assessment of country of origin for 41 items, which were assigned to the following regions: Japan 46%; China 27%; Korea 12%; other 15%. The introduction of potential invasive species via marine debris could be detrimental for the local biota. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of monitoring and collecting baseline information which can be used to guide and steer further research. Understanding the sources of debris items will allow mitigation measures to be implemented at the point of origin, where the greatest impact will occur.


Quantities of marine debris along the coastline line in South Korea have significantly decreased

presenting: Sunwook Hong (Korea Marine Litter Institute, South Korea); authors: Sunwook Hong (Korea Marine Litter Institute, South Korea), Jongmyoung Lee, Jong Su Lee, Daeseok Kang (Pukyong National University), Shin Yeong Park (Korea Marine Litter Institute)

Korea National Marine Debris Monitoring Program (KNMDMP) has been conducted since January 2008. Trained citizens have bimonthly monitored the quantities, composition and types, and sources of marine debris at 20 sites along the Korean coastline nationwide. Surveyors collected all debris items larger than 2.5 cm from 100 m length of coasts and identified 100 sorts of debris and recorded the origin of debris (domestic/overseas). Total number, weight, and volume of domestic marine debris showed statistically significant decrease for 9 years. The expanded polystyrene buoy item used to show the highest number during the first four years has significantly decreased. It is likely to be affected by governmental policy intervention such as encouraging replacement into durable buoys since 2009. However, overseas marine debris has not significantly decreased.


Marine Debris Monitoring On Heavily Impacted Remote Beaches

presenting: Chris Pallister (Gulf of Alaska Keeper, United States); authors: Chris Pallister (Gulf of Alaska Keeper, United States)

The results and lessons learned from a 10-year remote marine-debris monitoring project in the Gulf of Alaska will be discussed. Utilizing a combination of volunteers and professionals, this long-term project tracks 150 categories of marine debris on 17 road-inaccessible remote beaches scattered along 400 miles of the Gulf of Alaska coast. This monitoring project has been valuable not only for documenting the annual accumulation and type of marine debris, but also for tracking the impacts of distant natural disasters such as tsunamis and typhoons. The project has also identified and tracked the distribution of marine debris from shipping spills. The importance to policy makers of marine-debris monitoring data will also be discussed


Optimization of Urban Waste Design

presenting: Sydney Barnes-Grant (University of Washington, United States); authors: Sydney Barnes-Grant (University of Washington, United States), Margaret McCauley (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Most people take less than two seconds to consider where they put their trash. With 80% of trash in the ocean coming from land, a strategic plan for implementing trash receptacles in the right places, designs, and ratios has the potential to be a key trash management tool. EPA’s Region 10 Trash Free Waters will present results obtained from a Seattle-based study conducted in partnership with University of Washington (UW). EPA’s UW Capstone intern created a protocol based on California’s Urban Rapid Trash Assessment methodology to locate and track urban litter hotspots. Strategic bin placement is a critical component of aquatic trash prevention. The data from this research demonstrates the importance of public receptacle type and placement as well as the pitfalls of insufficient bin supply. Using ArcGIS technology, litter hotspots in three water adjacent neighborhoods in Seattle, WA were mapped and characterized according to prevailing waste sorting policy. This type of monitoring can be used to inform city planning by integrating consideration of land-use and aquatic trash prevention into bin placement criteria as an upstream solution to marine debris. The study revealed ways to predict trash generation and target bin placement based on business and census data layers.


Preliminary management recommendations based on marine litter research on Turkish northeastern Mediterranean beaches

presenting: Ahmet Erkan KIDEYS (Middle East Technical University, Turkey); authors: Ahmet Erkan KIDEYS (Middle East Technical University, Turkey), Kerem GÖKDAĞ (Middle East Technical University), Olgaç GÜVEN (Middle East Technical University), Bülent HALISDEMIR (Mersin Greater Municipality)

Several Turkish beaches along the northeastern Mediterranean were sampled for litter analyses in November 2015, April 2016 and August 2016. Beach litter studies revealed not only the composition and abundance of the litter accumulating on the beaches but also their sources for different seasons. Direct deposition at the beaches was identified as the most important vector compared to transportation from other regions. Litter abundance was higher either in areas of close proximity to debris-polluted waters or to the city center. In all cases plastics constituted the bulk of total litter. Among plastics, PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate) bottles and their lids were the most prominent items especially during the summer tourist season. Manufacturing was found to be the main sector producing litter compared to others through the percentage of general snack packaging and fishing related items collected. Cigarette smoking related litter items were also estimated in high quantities. Results from the present study combined with those from marine litter literature, as well as other relevant studies and activities (on protected areas, protected turtle species, awareness programs etc.) enable us to suggest region-specific management recommendations for decreasing the litter problem. These include deposit schemes to reduce PET bottle consumption, the expansion of public drinking water fountains; deployment of innovative cigarette stub collectors, establishment of litter collectors in rivers and most importantly large-scale awareness raising programs, especially incorporating local scientific community knowledge. Therefore, close cooperation between scientists and decision-makers are increasingly important in producing swift managerial actions.


Amounts, types, sources and distribution of marine debris derived from a statistical analysis of US data

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

Within the United States, clean‐up campaigns and repeated surveys are carried out to both clean up the beach but also quantify the amount of debris on the coastline and near waterways. However, to date, a statistically-robust evaluation of the amount of debris and the relative contribution of particular items to ocean trash had not been done. To address this knowledge gap, we used the coastal clean‐up data collected by Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), as well as two different surveys led by NOAA’s marine debris program to estimate the amount of debris on the U.S. coastline. We supplemented these data with a new random survey of debris along the entire U.S. west coast. We developed a statistical model to uncover pattern and process in marine debris at a range of scales, developed a baseline for marine debris in the United States and provided preliminary insights into the effectiveness of some policy interventions. Our findings indicate there are between 20 million and nearly 2 billion pieces of plastic present on the US coastline at any given time. Hotspots of debris at the state level include Texas, Idaho, Illinois and the mid-Atlantic states, with some evidence of higher debris loads near urban centers. Oceanographic transport also appears to be a significant contributor to patterns of marine debris at relatively large spatial scales. An analysis of plastic bottle and cap data suggests that container deposit legislation (i.e. bottle bills) is an effective policy to reduce littering of these problematic items. Our analysis confirms that efforts such as the International Coastal Cleanup and NOAA’s marine debris surveys provide information that is critical to developing strategies to reduce the threat of debris to coasts, oceans and waterways.


NOAA’s Marine Debris Monitoring Protocol in Action: Lessons Learned on Virginia’s Coastal Beaches

presenting: Christina Trapani (Christina Trapani Consulting, United States); authors: Christina Trapani (Christina Trapani Consulting, United States), Katie Register (Clean Virginia Waterways), Mark Swingle (Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center)

A new project, Monitoring Marine Debris in Virginia’s Coastal Zone, was initiated in 2014. The project partners (VA Coastal Zone Management Program, VA Aquarium, Clean VA Waterways) have a history of engagement in marine debris reduction efforts in Virginia, including balloon debris monitoring programs, data collection through the International Coastal Cleanup, cigarette litter prevention campaigns, and social marketing studies. During the first Virginia Marine Debris Summit in 2013, it became apparent that there was a need for high-value data about the quantity and types of debris on Virginia’s beaches. While extensive “snapshot” data existed, this information needed to be supplemented with data collected using more rigorous protocols. Since April 2014, four coastal beaches in Virginia have been monitored monthly using the Marine Debris Shoreline Survey protocols developed by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Implementation of the marine debris monitoring project has involved many aspects: site selection and accessibility; recruiting and training volunteers; overcoming scheduling challenges (weather, bird nesting seasons, volunteer availability, the 28+or- day requirement); data management and entry; data analysis; and managing site-specific challenges, such as visitors who remove litter from survey sites. Data collected from monthly monitoring is expected to serve as a baseline against which Virginia can evaluate the effectiveness of the Virginia Marine Debris Reduction Plan that was completed in October 2014. In this presentation, researchers will share results and findings from the data, including lessons learned and responses to challenges, and describe how the project is strengthening partnerships with pollution-prevention nonprofits, ocean advocacy organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others.


A wooden, scientific “message in a bottle” – German university team researches sources and dispersal of macroplastics through large-scale public participation experiment

presenting: Rosanna Schoeneich-Argent (Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany); authors: Rosanna Schoeneich-Argent (Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany), Holger Freund (Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg), Frank Hillmann (Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg), Peter Schaal (Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences (IBU), Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg), Katharina Stephan (Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences (IBU), Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg)

Regular beach cleanups provide insight into quantitative and qualitative changes of litter over time, and are a tool to raise public awareness. Yet there is agreement that it is necessary to combat plastic waste at its sources. Since mid-2016, an interdisciplinary project (Macroplastics Pollution in the Southern North Sea – Sources, Pathways and Abatement Strategies) from the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany, has been researching the input and dispersal of macroplastics. Combining numerical models with monitoring, experimental field work, stakeholder analysis and citizen science, it aims to identify the origins of plastic pollution along the German North Sea coastline, the major tributaries Ems, Weser and Elbe, and in the German Bight. The goal is to provide governmental and non-governmental organisations with solid data and improved knowledge of the sources, pathways and accumulation areas of marine debris in order to devise acceptable and effective abatement strategies. A core component of this project is the release of wooden drifters – 9,000 to 10,000 per season – over a 2-year period at selected locations which are likely plastic litter source points (Fig. 1). Each drifter is branded with an individual ID and a message in German and English, inviting every finder to report ID, date and location via the project website (Fig. 2). Almost 50 % of the >24,000 drifters released so far have been registered from places in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. These data are used to validate and improve drift models, identify litter hotspots, and infer the possible sources of beached litter due to the known release points of the wooden drifters (back-tracking). Here we present initial, GIS-based results of report patterns and experiences from this unique, large-scale public participation experiment.


A combined approach on surveying marine litter in Arctic Greenland

presenting: Jakob Strand (Aarhus University, Denmark); authors: Jakob Strand (Aarhus University, Denmark), Lis Bach (Aarhus University), Thomas Juul-Pedersen (Greenland Institute of Natural Resources)

The global pollution of plastic in the ocean has today also made their clear marks in the Arctic marine environment adding on to the local sources. This study on the first systematic analyses of amounts and composition of marine litter in Greenland provides the first baseline information useful for assessments of the most important sources including the potential long-range transport into the Arctic region. In a combined approach conducted in 2016-2017, we studied environmental indicators for beach litter, plastic particles ingested by northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) and microplastic in a gradient from an urban area using sediments and biota. Microplastic characterization has been supported by FTIR analyses. Relatively high amounts and the composition of beach litter in West Greenland indicate the importance of local sources whereas litter in East Greenland mostly originates from sea-based activities and potential long-range transport. Data from fulmars from two sampling locations also indicates a relative high impact with 35 % of birds that contained more than 0.1 g plastic in their stomachs dominated by polymers with densities < 1 g cm-3 indicating main contribution from floating plastics. Microplastic studies showed a clear gradient from local urban sources and in sediments it was dominated by polymer materials with densities > 1 g cm-3. The data can potentially be used as a first input for establishment of baseline levels used for future spatial and temporal trend assessments in the region. Project outcome has been disseminated to the Greenlandic EPA and political commissions and potential local actions towards combating local sources have been discussed.