“[Ocean plastic] isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is. We know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle.”
Editor’s note: Marine plastic has a profound impact on marine ecosystems – entangling and killing wildlife, spreading disease and non-native species, and even impairing the oceans’ creation of oxygen. Managing marine ecosystems will need to include managing the marine plastic problem. Last month the Skimmer reported on the impacts of marine plastic on the Blue Economy, including on tourism, fishing, and ecosystem services. This month, in the second half of our plastics coverage, we examine which policies to reduce marine plastic seem to work best.
There is an abundance of information out there on how to reduce one’s personal plastic consumption, with the ultimate goal of reducing the amount of plastic that is polluting marine (and terrestrial) ecosystems. There are also numerous great reports (examples here and here) on government and industry interventions for reducing marine plastic pollution. But what do we know about the efficacy and level of impact of these activities? Are we lumping actions which are likely to have relatively little impact on the problem with actions that potentially have huge impacts? Of course, the ideal is to eliminate all plastic pollution – marine and terrestrial – but in this article, we attempt to:
- Provide perspective (by way of lots of numbers) for what actions are most likely to make the biggest difference in marine plastic pollution
- Provide information on what has been shown to work to reduce marine plastic pollution.
Editor’s Note: For this article, we interviewed Ekaterina Popova, a global ocean modeller with the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, United Kingdom, about her new article "Ecological connectivity between the areas beyond national jurisdiction and coastal waters: Safeguarding interests of coastal communities in developing countries" published in Marine Policy in June 2019. This research found that coastal regions of some least-developed countries (LDCs) are connected to areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) through larval dispersal and the potential dispersal of pollutants. These findings suggest that protecting ‘source’ areas in the ABNJ could help promote sustainable livelihoods for coastal regions that depend on larval supply from these regions (and could prevent pollutants from these source areas reaching coastal regions.)
The Skimmer: Can you briefly describe some of the connections between source areas in the ABNJ and coastal regions?
Popova: Our study showed that connectivity between the ABNJ and coastal waters of different countries varies considerably. How tight the connectivity is, depends on the prevailing direction, timescale and variability of ocean currents. Sometimes, the shape of the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) also has an effect. The complex ways these various factors interact means that close geographical proximity, or ‘adjacency’, of coastal waters to ABNJ is not always a good indicator of strong connectivity and some countries are much more exposed to the influence of ABNJ than others. The world’s most ABNJ-impacted LDC is the Federal Republic of Somalia. Its strong connectivity is shaped by three powerful currents: the South Equatorial current, the East African coastal current, and the seasonally reversing East Somali current. The most tightly ABNJ-connected stretch of the Somali coastline can be impacted by the upstream ABNJ waters on a time scale of just over a month. In contrast, the Republic of Senegal is one of the world’s least connected LDCs. Its most tightly ABNJ-connected coastline stretch is impacted by upstream ABNJ on a time scale of more than seven months.
- New long-term data set shows clear changes in El Niño patterns
- Global assessment finds humans driving a million species to extinction
- Warming waters changing compositions of global plankton communities
- Productivity of North Atlantic phytoplankton declining as ocean warms
- New report documents climate change impacts on deep ocean habitat, fish, and fisheries
- New reporting on how weak governance undermines South America’s ocean ecosystems
- US government and fishing industry to collaborate on offshore wind research and processes
- EU releases 2019 Blue Economy report
- New paper describes approaches and tools for achieving multi-objective MSP
- Global Fishing Watch makes data available/easier to use in other applications
- Free service helps nonprofits create ArcGIS StoryMaps
- Input requested on content/main uses of new marine conservation planning database
- Major newspaper switching from “climate change” to “climate crisis”
Editor’s Note: From the Archives calls attention to past Skimmer/MEAM articles whose perspectives and insight remain relevant.
To some in conservation and resource management, marketing can seem like a bad word. But marketing is inherently about getting people to change their behavior, whether it is buying a product, recycling, or supporting a new approach to management. Marketing techniques bring together elements of psychology, sociology, economics, and graphic design. Learn from three experts how to use conservation marketing to make marine conservation and management processes more effective.