This Convention places restrictions on the disposal of garbage, based on garbage type and distance from land, and completely prohibits the disposal of plastics at sea. Yet despite these and other prohibitions, 20 years later, there are still large quantities of debris, including plastics, fouling beaches and oceans.


In 2006, Congress enacted the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act. Its stated purposes are to identify, determine sources of, assess, reduce, and prevent marine debris and its impacts; revive interagency coordination efforts through an Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (IMDCC); and establish a federal clearinghouse for marine debris information. Within this Act, Congress requested that the National Research Council (NRC) undertake a study to assess the effectiveness of international and national measures to prevent and reduce marine debris and its impacts (see Box S.1 for the full statement of task).

Given its charge, the committee that wrote this report focused its efforts on the debris discharged at sea from a variety of maritime activities


Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee will be formed to examine the effectiveness of international and national measures to prevent and reduce marine debris and its impact. The committee will prepare a report that includes

  1. An evaluation of international and domestic implementation of MARPOL Annex V and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (33 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.) and identification of cost-effective, innovative approaches that could be taken to improve implementation and compliance.

  2. A review and assessment of technologies, strategies, and management practices for further reducing the impact of marine debris, including derelict fishing gear. As part of this review, the committee will examine the International Mari-time Organization’s Guidelines for the Implementation of Annex V of MARPOL and recommend additional federal or international actions that could be taken to further reduce debris and its impacts.

  3. An evaluation of the role of floating fish aggregation devices in the generation of marine debris and existing legal mechanisms to reduce impacts of such debris, focusing on impacts in the Western Pacific and Central Pacific regions.

  4. An overview of the existing federal statutes on marine debris (including land-based sources) with a description of the responsibilities of the designated federal agencies.

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