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FEDERAL ACTION TO IMPROVE IMPLEMENTATION OF ANNEX V 241 SCIENTIFIC MONITORING Environmental monitoring is a way of providing feedback for improving environmental management. A number of illuminating studies and surveys have been conducted on the fates and effects of marine debris, but there has not been any comprehensive, long-term research. Improved collection and analysis of data on marine debris not only would fill the numerous gaps in the existing scientific knowledge base but also would provide means for assessing Annex V and progress in its implementation. Reliable data would provide a rational basis for timely shifts in management programs to improve Annex V compliance. This type of monitoring is by nature long-term and demands organizational commitment. To expand understanding of the fates of marine debris, the committee concludes that statistically valid long-term programs are needed to monitor the flux of plastics in the oceans and assess the rates of accumulation of debris in the benthos. Research on the fate and transport of plastics in the global oceans would provide a basis for evaluating whether Annex V, as currently written and internationally implemented, is providing adequate protection. Plastic would be the logical target because it is the most prevalent and harmful type of debris and its overboard discharge is prohibited by Annex V. In addition, regular surveys to measure accumulation rates of plastic on beaches and the coastal sea floor would provide a measure of the current pollution problem and a benchmark for evaluating compliance with Annex V. It would be important to share the data with national and international agencies responsible for Annex V implementation. In addition, because it is difficult to obtain such data without a systematic, worldwide effort involving the cooperation of other maritime nations, it might be helpful to draw attention to the need for this type of monitoring through international forums, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). To expand understanding of the effects of marine debris, the committee concludes that statistically valid long-term programs are needed to monitor interactions of marine species with debris in the oceans and the impact of debris on pristine areas. Existing studies could be expanded and extended. New data on wildlife interactions (e.g., entanglements with and ingestion of debris) is needed to verify the ecological effects of debris that have been suggested by previous reports and surveys. Standardized reporting forms, centralized data analysis, and information exchange are essential. It may be feasible to adapt existing research on non- Annex V topics, such as analyses of fish stomach contents, to also record the incidence of plastics and other debris. Another approach would be to conduct regular necropsies on dead stranded marine mammals and other animals. Research on the impact of debris in areas minimally affected by land-based sources would help