Significant Articles and Reports on Marine Litter

Compiled by Nick Wehner, MarineDebris.Info project manager, and John Davis, MarineDebris.Info project supervisor

The following list represents several noteworthy titles on marine debris, including ocean plastics and derelict fishing gear. They assess a range of aspects from the science of ocean litter to its management (prevention, reduction, and removal).

These titles are in no particular order, although reports appear closer to the top and journal articles are near the bottom:

Report to Congress: "The Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (IMDCC) considered persistent solid man-made debris from both land-based and ocean-based sources and its adverse impacts on the marine environment and navigation safety."

Report: Provides recommendations to the Global Environment Facility for tackling the marine debris problem. Provides background on marine debris, identifies knowledge gaps, and examines existing frameworks and initiatives.

Report: "The overall objective of the present overview has been to assess the threat posed by marine litter worldwide and examine the efficacy of current instruments, programmes and initiatives that address this global threat."

Workshop Report: "The purpose of the workshop was to bring together environmental research scientists from around the world to discuss the impacts of microplastic interactions and ingestion to marine species, the connection with contaminant uptake by organisms, and to outline the potential next steps in microplastic research."

Workshop Report: "A summit of NOAA, other federal agency, and private sector experts in marine debris, oceanography, biology, and remote sensing technology was held to identify existing knowledge, gaps in understanding, and actions that can be taken to allow progress toward at‐sea detection and removal of derelict fishing gear."

Report to Congress: "This Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (IMDCC) Progress Report provides an update on the activities Federal agencies have undertaken...to address marine debris, as mandated by the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act (MDRPRA; 33 U.S.C. 1951 et seq.)...This section also addresses the means by which IMDCC priorities are determined. The appendices contain specific information on the recommendations from the initial Report to Congress, an overview of the IMDCC, relevant Federal agency authorities, and information on MARPOL Annex V violations."

Book Selection: "The aim of this review is to address and answer the following questions from information sourced largely from scienti fi c reports and the mainstream scientific literature: What are plastics actually? What happens when they are discarded? How do plastics pose a threat to organisms in marine environments, and what are the solutions to the plastic debris problem?"

  • ​Jambeck, Jenna R., Roland Geyer, Chris Wilcox, Theodore R. Siegler, Miriam Perryman, Anthony Andrady, Ramani Narayan, and Kara Lavender Law. 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 13 February 2015. Vol. 347, no. 6223, pp. 768-771 (note: for a free review copy, contact the study's lead author)

Journal article: “By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, we estimated the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean. We calculate that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean.”

  • Cózar, Andrés, Fidel Echevarría, J. Ignacio González-Gordillo, Xabier Irigoien, Bárbara Úbeda, Santiago Hernández-León, Álvaro T. Palma, Sandra Navarro, Juan García-de-Lomas, Andrea Ruiz, María L. Fernández-de-Puelles, and Carlos M. Duarte. 2014. Plastic debris in the open ocean. PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), vol. 111, no. 28, pp. 10239–10244

Journal article: “Using data from the Malaspina 2010 circumnavigation, regional surveys, and previously published reports, we show a worldwide distribution of plastic on the surface of the open ocean…. However, the global load of plastic on the open ocean surface was estimated to be on the order of tens of thousands of tons, far less than expected. Resolving the fate of the missing plastic debris is of fundamental importance to determine the nature and significance of the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean.”

Journal article: “We assessed the presence of anthropogenic debris in fishes and shellfish on sale for human consumption [in] markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and California, USA. In Indonesia, anthropogenic debris was found in 28% of individual fish and in 55% of all species. Similarly, in the USA, anthropogenic debris was found in 25% of individual fish and in 67% of all species. We report some of the first findings of plastic debris in fishes directly sold for human consumption raising concerns regarding human health.”

Academic Journal Article: "This review aims to present a general overview of the current state of knowledge in areas that relate to biodegradation of polymers, especially poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). This includes an outline of the problems associated with plastic pollution in the marine environment, a description of the properties, commercial manufacturing and degradability of PET, an overview of the potential for biodegradation of conventional polymers and biodegradable polymers already in production."

Academic Journal Article: "This article explores the evolving role of international law in the efforts to manage marine litter, including recent developments involving the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention) and the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)."

Academic Journal Article: This paper provides an excellent review of different methods of monitoring marine debris.

Note: In July 2013, SeaWeb published a list of recent publications on Contaminants and Pollution: Marine Debris.

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