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.




Monitoring Challenges in Coastal Environments

presenting: Shelly Moore (Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, United States); authors: Shelly Moore (Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, United States), Holly Wyer (California Ocean Protection Council)

Trash has become a focal point of both management and the public as it has come to the forefront as both an aesthetic problem and a danger to aquatic organisms. Recent policies put in place by state and local governments in California will soon necessitate more robust methods for measuring the amounts of trash in various habitats to both determine how much is in the environment and how effective the policies have been at limiting or reducing trash in the environment. Policies such as the regional Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and the state Trash Amendments both limit the amounts of trash allowed in waterways leading to the ocean, and require trash capture methods to curtail trash from making it into waterways. There are currently no standard methodologies, used by many, allowing for comparability of trash levels both within and among regions. Many methodologies providing detailed information have been deemed cost restrictive because of the needed resources, through both staff time and equipment. Other methodologies, which leverage efforts off other studies, may not provide the most accurate information. New technologies, such as drones, may provide more efficient and cost realistic alternatives to looking at trash in the environment. Here we summarize challenges and talk about a new project funded by the Ocean Protection Council and supported by the California State Water Resources Control Board to develop new or modify existing technologies and methods to provide a standardized set of tools to be used by all levels of researchers.


Standard Trash Monitoring Methods for California

presenting: Terra Miller-Cassman (Amec Foster Wheeler, United States); authors: Terra Miller-Cassman (Amec Foster Wheeler, United States), Ted Von Bitner (Amec Foster Wheeler), Theresa Sinicrope Talley (California Sea Grant)

The new California Trash Amendments highlight the need for standardized trash monitoring protocols that can be easily implemented by any co-permittee in a variety of receiving water systems. Existing protocols largely focus on particular systems, such as MS4, beaches or rivers. A state-wide data collection method, applicable to all systems within watersheds and receiving waters, is needed to form a truly comparable dataset for long-term trash monitoring and management. Protocols developed and refined with public and private partners in the San Diego Bay watershed over the past five years allow for rapid collection of site information, trash abundance and composition across seasons and a variety of systems, including seasonal and perennial creeks, coastal wetlands, sandy beaches, armored shorelines and open water. Collection of semi-quantitative site information and documentation of all trash along replicate transect areas allowed for direct, unbiased assessments of trash abundance, composition and associated factors across all surveyed areas. For example, trash composition across habitats was highly varied, suggesting that receiving water monitoring should consider the transport mechanism and unique environmental influences. Of note was that beaches, often the target of community cleanup efforts, had the least amount of plastics of any of the systems sampled thus informing the prioritization of regional efforts. The simplicity of this method allowed for community involvement with limited resources, making it ideal for collection of Trash Amendment baseline assessments across California.


Rapid assessment of marine debris in coastal areas using a visual scoring indicator

presenting: Jongmyoung Lee (Korea Marine Litter Institute, Korea); authors: Jongmyoung Lee (Korea Marine Litter Institute, South Korea), Sunwook Hong, Jongsu Lee

Information on the spatial distribution and standing stock of marine debris in coastal areas is a prerequisite for efficient cleanup and management. We conducted a rapid assessment on marine debris in coasts of South Korea using a visual scoring indicator. The indicator consisted of a table and photos representing 10 pollution levels that were quantitatively tested. Locations at every 10 km were selected along the natural coastline for a total of 382 locations, and a length of 100 m at each location was assessed. Approximately 40 participants were trained, and each participant assessed the pollution levels using a newly developed smartphone application programs. We found that approximately 50 ~ 60% of the marine debris was accumulated over 10% of the coastline. The amounts of the marine debris stock in coast were higher in summer than in other seasons.


Marine Debris Visual Identification Assessment

presenting: Zachary Angelini (University of New Hampshire, United States); authors: Nancy Kinner (University of New Hampshire, United States), Justin Thibault (University of New Hampshire), Nancy Kinner (University of New Hampshire), Philip Ramsey (University of New Hampshire), Kenneth Fuld (University of New Hampshire)

Estimates of marine debris are often based on beach surveys. Few studies have documented the veracity of these observations and the factors that may affect accuracy. Our laboratory-scale experiment identified potential sources of error associated with visual identification of marine debris (1-2 cm long) during shoreline surveys of sand beaches. Characteristics of the survey site (beach characteristics), observer (personal characteristics), and debris (color and size) may be important factors to consider when analyzing data from shoreline surveys. The results of this study show that the ability of individuals to accurately identify plastic fragments depends on the plastic and sand color, and density of shell fragments, as well as the time taken on the survey. Most suggestively, the high accuracy of blue plastic counts (95%) and the under-counting of white (50%) and clear plastic counts (55%) confirmed the hypothesis that a significant amount of clear and white plastic fragments may be missed during shoreline surveys.


Aerial Imagery and Machine Learning to Advance Trash Monitoring Methods

presenting: Tony Hale (San Francisco Estuary Institute, United States); authors: Tony Hale (San Francisco Estuary Institute, United States), Pete Kauhanen (San Francisco Estuary Institute)

Recent advances in capability and availability of new technologies can greatly improve current monitoring and management of our natural resources and human impacts on it. In order to leverage these new opportunities, we are investigating how Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) research and research projects compare to traditional monitoring methods.

This research will focus on the benefits and limitations of utilizing a UAS in a monitoring context. By using UAS, we are able to capture significantly larger datasets, across a broader geographical scope, allowing for more complete and potentially useful monitoring datasets that may be applicable to multiple monitoring questions. In particular, this study will focus on the improvements to analytical capabilities, streamlined workflow, broader scope and vision for monitoring projects. It is also important to document the relevant constraints and limitations this technology may yet bear for specific applications.

Our presentation will provide an early insight into our plans and projects in progress related to aerial imagery collection and analysis. Most recently, the SF Geospatial workgroup concluded a pilot project to determine levels of precision in using aerial imagery to detect trash. By pairing aerial imagery with artificial intelligence, we can more easily process large datasets to derive monitoring information critical to trash detection, characterization, and quantification. We are currently partnering with SCCWRP to determine how we can automate trash detection locally, regionally, and statewide through imagery. We plan to monitor trash in several habitats and varying geographies to identify the new opportunities and challenges.


Microplastics Baseline Surveys at the Water Surface and in Sediments of the North-East Atlantic

presenting: Thomas Maes (Cefas, United Kingdom); authors: Thomas Maes (Cefas, United Kingdom)

Microplastic contamination was determined in sediments of the Southern North Sea and floating at the sea surface of North West Europe. Floating concentrations ranged between 0 and 1.5 microplastic/m3, whereas microplastic concentrations in sediments ranged between 0 and 3,146 particles/kg dry weight sediment. In sediments, mainly fibers and spheres were found, whereas at the sea surface fragments were dominant. At the sea surface, concentrations of microplastics are lower and more variable than in sediments, meaning that larger sample sizes and water volumes are required to find detectable concentrations. We have calculated the widths of the confidence intervals (CI) for different sample sizes, to give a first indication of the necessary sample size for a microplastic survey at the water surface. Higher concentrations of floating microplastics were found near estuaries. In sediments, estuaries and areas with a high organic carbon content were likely hotspots. Standardization of monitoring methods within marine regions is recommended to compare and assess microplastics pollution over time.


World War II Cultural Heritage Sites as Marine Debris: Developing an Environmental Assessment Methodology in Guam

presenting: Kalle Applegate Palmer (HTH, United States); authors: Kalle Palmer (HTH, United States)

This study investigated how the natural environment on and around historically protected marine debris from World War II in Guam may be documented to understand the impact of such debris on the ecosystems they are in as well as which monitoring methods are best for citizen scientists. World War II marine debris in and around Guam includes but is not limited to Japanese and American vessels, amphibious attack vehicles, planes, and construction equipment. There are federal and local protections in place for this debris. monitoring the natural environment may give insight to how protected marine debris serves as an artificial reef by documenting biotic, abiotic and human use descriptors. It may reveal trends in habitat conditions, historical and recreational management applications, connection between physical disturbances and their role in structure reduction, as well as reef complexity and resiliency. The survey was designed to be conducted by citizen scientists that do not have biological or taxonomic expertise but are stakeholders in the sites. The monitoring protocol was introduced with a visual presentation of key data points for non-biologist citizen scientist surveyors. The next steps for this study include further surveying within the tropical Pacific and the establishment of a centralized database for survey findings which would also include tools for prospective surveyors and findings for researchers.


Cultivating Santa Barbara Channel Stewards: A Marine Debris Removal Project on the Northern Channel Islands

presenting: Michaela Miller (California State University Monterey Bay, United States); authors: Michaela Miller (California State University Monterey Bay, United States), Clare Steele (California State University Channel Islands), Robyn Shea (California State University Channel Islands), Stephen Whitaker (National Park Service), Geoff Dilly (California State University Channel Islands)

The persistence of plastics and other marine debris in coastal and marine ecosystems has become an issue of global concern. In the Santa Barbara Channel, marine debris accumulates on mainland and offshore island coastlines from multiple sources including the commercial fishing industry, storm water discharge, illegal dumping, beachgoers, vessels, etc. The highly populated mainland coast and the vast stretches of isolated beaches on the remote California Channel Islands lead to highly variable types and abundances of marine debris. We collected data on the types and relative density of coastal marine debris from seven Northern Channel Island beaches (Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands) and two mainland beaches in Oxnard, CA to document the extent of marine debris in this region. These data were compared with historical data on marine debris accumulation within Channel Islands National Park during the early 1990s. Preliminary results suggest that there has been a change in the composition of island marine debris over the past 30 years, with an increase in derelict fishing gear. In addition to documenting marine debris trends, we developed a best management practice used to remove marine debris from ecologically and culturally sensitive remote island beaches. We are currently assessing the abundance and ecological effects of microplastic pollution at our study sites, and we are implementing marine debris curriculum in local K-12 schools. The ultimate goal of this project is to cultivate a new community of Santa Barbara Channel stewards by building a collaborative professional network of local agencies and resources that engage the commercial fishing industry and underrepresented students in marine debris removal, research, education, and outreach.