National Academies Press: OpenBook

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Controlling Garbage and Plastic Wastes at Sea (1995)

Chapter: Monitoring Trends in Biological Impacts

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Suggested Citation:"Monitoring Trends in Biological Impacts." National Research Council. 1995. Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Controlling Garbage and Plastic Wastes at Sea. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4769.
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Page 216

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MEASURING PROGRESS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF ANNEX V 216 ing groups. In 1989, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) entered into an agreement with the National Park Service to conduct a five-year pilot study using a standard methodology for marine debris surveys2, tested on beaches within nine national seashores. Recently, the EPA has been leading an effort to improve on the methodology. The EPA is working with NOAA, the National Park Service, the CMC, the Coast Guard, the Marine Mammal Commission, and selected scientists to establish a method for determining inputs of debris from specific ocean- and land-based sources and identifying trends. The EPA methodology has been tested at pilot sites in Maryland and New Jersey. A draft methodology has been developed and reviewed by all federal agencies that monitor marine debris, and final approval was expected by the end of 1994. A long-term marine debris sampling program, carried out by trained volunteers, is to be implemented at selected U.S. beaches in 1995. Monitoring Trends in Biological Impacts Another approach to measuring progress in Annex V implementation would be to monitor for trends in ecological effects, such as injury or mortality among species of wildlife. As discussed in Chapter 2, available information on the impacts of debris on marine organisms consists primarily of baseline studies. Trends might be determined if long-term studies were initiated focusing on groups and populations of marine species. However, despite widespread observations of marine debris, only a few animal populations are monitored so closely that the effects of such debris could be discerned among all the other influences on the population. The potential for using this type of research to measure Annex V implementation is suggested by the ongoing northern fur seal studies, which provide a continuing census of a legally protected marine species. Through close and repeated observations, researchers are able to record information on the effects of fishing debris on seal colonies. A recent assessment notes a 50 percent decrease between 1981 and 1989 in the number of seal reported entangled in trawl webbing, possibly due to a reduction in the amount of net fragments discarded by fishing vessels (Fowler and Baba, 1991). That data set, initiated long before Annex V came into force, provides a record of the harm caused by uncontrolled vessel garbage. Continued collection of such data— particularly if the researchers were asked specifically to also record debris entanglements—might provide an 2 The methodology was based on early drafts of a marine debris survey manual developed with the support of the Marine Entanglement Research Program. The manual (Ribic et al., 1992) was adopted for publication in 1993 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's Working Committee on the Global Investigation of Pollution in the Marine Environment, which had launched the initial standardization effort in 1986 by agreeing to develop such a guide.

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Marine debris is a serious environmental problem. To do its part, the United States has agreed to abide by the international treaty for garbage control at sea, known as MARPOL 73/78 Annex V.

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans explores the challenge of translating Annex V into workable laws and regulations for all kinds of ships and boats, from cruise ships to fishing crafts and recreational boats. The volume examines how existing resources can be leveraged into a comprehensive strategy for compliance, including integrated waste management systems and effective enforcement.

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans describes both progress toward and obstacles to Annex V compliance. The book covers:

  • How shipborne garbage orignates and what happens to garbage discharged into the seas.
  • Effects of discharge on human health, wildlife safety, and aesthetics.
  • Differences in perspective among military, industrial, and recreational seafarers and shoreside facilities.

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans will be important to marine policymakers, port administrators, ship operations officers, maritime engineers, and marine ecologists.

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