National Academies Press: OpenBook

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

Chapter: Special Situations: The Gulf of Mexico

« Previous: Pilot Programs by Community and Environmental Groups
Suggested Citation:"Special Situations: The Gulf of Mexico." 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.
Page 27

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DIMENSIONS OF THE CHALLENGE AND U.S. PROGRESS 27 funded by a grant from MERP, the program included an educational effort targeting fishermen and an agreement with the city to place large dumpsters and storage areas on city-owned piers. Fishermen were encouraged to return to port their netting and cordage formerly discarded at sea; in some cases, they also retrieved netting observed floating at sea. Once on shore, the plastic nets were sorted by type, baled, and transported to recycling centers in Seattle. Although the Newport program has been discontinued, fishermen using various ports in Washington state and Alaska continue to recycle nylon gill-net webbing through a recycling infrastructure established and managed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (F.I.S.H. Habitat Education Program, 1994). Special Situations: The Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico is part of the Wider Caribbean special area. Special areas are an important consideration in the development of a U.S. Annex V implementation strategy, for two reasons. First, special areas fall into multiple national jurisdictions, meaning that all nations bordering an area must cooperate to some degree, first to obtain the designation and then to implement and enforce Annex V mandates. The other reason is that Annex V imposes a zero- discharge standard in special areas, and vessels transiting these areas must be able to comply. In most special areas, food waste must be discharged at least 12 nautical miles from shore; in the Wider Caribbean only, comminuted (i.e., ground) food waste may be discharged beyond 3 nautical miles from shore. The IMO has designated eight special areas under Annex V.14 The discharge restrictions have gone into force in three areas: the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the Antarctic Ocean. The mandates will take effect in the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, and the Caribbean once IMO determines that sufficient port reception facilities are available bordering the special area. It is important to note that the designation of special areas is a political process, as opposed to an entirely scientific one. The Wider Caribbean was so designated by IMO at the urging of the United States and in consultation with other nations in the region, including Mexico and Cuba, neither of which is a signatory of Annex V. The special area status of this region will make unique demands on executive agencies of the U.S. government and will require coordination of enforcement and compliance efforts among the countries bordering the Wider Caribbean. The Gulf of Mexico Program. (GOMP) is one avenue for such coordination. Organized by the EPA regions15 spanning the gulf, the GOMP is an interagency effort 14 Different special areas may be designated under other MARPOL annexes. This report addresses only those special areas designated under Annex V. 15 The EPA divides the United States into 10 regions for administrative purposes. The Gulf of Mexico falls within two jurisdictions, so oversight of the special area requires the cooperation of both the Atlanta and the Dallas EPA headquarters.

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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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